Portland may subpoena Uber over ‘Greyball’

Uber admits using the software tool to evade regulators in 2014

In this July 15, 2015 file photo, an Uber driver sits in his car near the San Francisco International Airport. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
In this July 15, 2015 file photo, an Uber driver sits in his car near the San Francisco International Airport. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Uber used a software tool to deliberately evade local regulators before a pilot program was implemented in Portland and has refused to provide the city with information about the technology, Commissioner Dan Saltzman said in a memo to the City Council.

Saltzman’s memo, dated April 27, 2017, also suggest the City of Portland subpoena Uber to force them to provide the information the city wants.

The issue came to light through a New York Times article about “Greyball,” which Uber utilized to skirt local regulators and customers around the world.

Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, April 10, 2017 (KOIN)
Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, April 10, 2017 (KOIN)

Once this came to light, the City Council authorized PBOT to conduct an audit of Uber and the other Transportation Network Companies (TNCs). Read the full PBOT audit below.

The audit was released this week and Saltzman’s summary said the audit found no TNC used any tech program to block regulators since Portland’s pilot program began in April 2015.

But Uber, Saltzman’s memo says, “has admitted to having applied ‘Greyball’ tags against 17 riders in Portland and blocked 3 riders on 29 separate ride request during a two-week time period in December of 2014.”

Saltzman wants the city to get more information from Uber to “determine if further regulatory or legislative action is necessary.”

In a statement from Uber,Bryce Bennett, the Uber general manager for Oregon, told KOIN 6 News:

“It is unfortunate this investigation and the report have become so politically charged, and that Commissioner (Nick) Fish has used the process to make baseless claims about our conduct in Portland.”

He added, “As indicated to the city, Uber has not used the Greyball technology with respect to regulators in Portland at any time during or since the implementation of Portland’s TNC regulations and pilot program in April 2015.”