Uber on Wednesday promised to stop "greyballing" law enforcement in the future.
The practice, which came to light last week in a New York Times report, was used to deceive authorities in cities where the ride-hailing service is banned.
When Uber suspects that someone is using its app in a way that it deems improper—say, conducting a sting operation to identify Uber drivers—the company will display phantom cars to confuse the person, or manually cancel a trip if the person manages to be matched with a driver.
Uber's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan in a statement Wednesday acknowledged that Uber uses the greyball technology to hide the standard city app view for certain riders, and instead shows that person a different version. The company uses the tool for several different purposes, he said, including: "the testing of new features by employees; marketing promotions; fraud prevention; to protect our partners from physical harm; and to deter riders using the app in violation of our terms of service."
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Sillivan went on to say that Uber recently initiated a review of the technology.
"We are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward," he wrote, adding that it could take some time before the "prohibition is fully enforced" due to the way Uber's systems are configured. Sullivan said Uber received "a number of" requests for more information about its greyballing practices, and will respond to those inquiries once it has completed its review of the technology.
The Times, citing four current and former Uber employees who discussed greyballing, reported that the system is now mostly used outside the US, but was used to thwart officials in Paris, Portland, Ore., and other cities that were at odds with the ride-hailing service.