The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating ride-sharing company Uber for secretly using their app to track the movements of police officers, according to Fortune.
In an unbelievably blatant, carefully planned, and intentional manner, Uber has been using their app for three years to track police officers so that it could be one step ahead of them trying to catch it breaking the law.
According to Entrepreneur, the revelation came amidst intense review of Uber's administration and company culture. The company's police-tracking program, code-name Greyball, was designed to track people who may be using the app to investigate the company.
It focused on police officers who downloaded the Uber app in areas where it was banned. According to The New York Times, about 50 people at the company knew about the app.
A New York Times reporter, Mike Issac, interviewed four current and former Uber employees and guaranteed them confidentiality. They described in detail how the company would identify a user who might be a police officer.
Uber would search social media profiles, determine whether a credit card was linked to a police credit union, or keep track of the least expensive cell phones available, based on the assumption that they were bought for a sting operation.
What happened when a tagged police officer called for a car? Uber could mix up a set of 'ghost' cars inside a fake version of the app for that person, or show that no cars were available at all. If an Uber driver accidentally picked up a police officer, the company would sometimes call the driver with instructions to end the ride.
In a statement, Uber said that the program was designed to protect its drivers. It also said that it denies ride requests to users who are violating their terms of service, "whether that's people physically planning to harm its drivers, competitors looking to disrupt their operations, or opponents who conspire with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers."
What the company is banking on is that all identified police officers are actually violating the terms of service, rather than just honestly trying to use the ride-sharing service, but that's unlikely to be the case.