Portland “Regulation Evasion Audit” of Uber Greyball

In response to Uber’s Greyball blocking of government investigations, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) prepared a 56-page audit report. Their summary:

In using Greyball, Uber has sullied its own reputation and cast a cloud over the TNC industry generally. The use of Greyball has only strengthened PBOT’s resolve to operate a robust and effective system of protections for Portland’s TNC customers.

PBOT continued:

As the agency responsible for ensuring the safety of TNC customers and the integrity of the TNC market, PBOT views Uber’s failure to comply with deep concern. This failure calls into question Uber’s commitment to comply in general with the City of Portland’s regulatory framework. It also raises questions about Uber’s ability to be a trustworthy partner in PBOT’s efforts to ensure that Portland’s TNC customers receive safe and reliable service.

PBOT searched for evidence of Uber continuing to use Greyball, or of Lyft doing so. They found no such evidence, though they noted that “It is inherently difficult to prove a negative.”

Blocked regulators’ investigations by sending bogus data

Through its “Greyball” system, Uber attempted to identify officials investigating its methods, including noting accounts created from within or near regulators’ offices and rides requested from those areas.  When a user was classified as affiliated with a regulator, Uber intentionally denied that user’s requests, declining to send a driver—preventing the regulator from finding drivers and bringing enforcement actions against drivers or Uber.

The US Department of Justice launched a criminal probe into Uber about this practice.

The New York Times reported that at least 50 people inside Uber knew about these tactics, and that the  program was approved by then-General Counsel Salle Yoo.

Litigation by Uber investor Benchmark Capital reported that, as of August 2017, Uber faced Greyball-related regulatory inquiries in Portland, Oregon; subpoenas from US Attorneys in California and New York; various other city and state inquiries; and an inquiry from the European parliament.

In September 2017, Portland finished its investigation, finding that Uber had used Greyball to block 29 ride requests by 16 government officials whose job it was to regulate Uber.

Portland Bureau of Transportation Audit of Greyball including full audit report