Greyball : Uber’s secret software to dodge the authorities

Yesterday, the New York Times revealed that Uber had been using a secret software since the beginning of 2014 to dodge the authorities in cities and countries where its activities were prohibited.

Indeed, policemen were responsible for posing as potential clients in order to catch Uber’s drivers red handed. The software, called Greyball, used user data and crossed it with social networks information to determine whether customers were true or “baits”. He could also retrieve credit card information to obtain the actual identity of each customer or check if the card did not belong to a police credit union. Finally, Greyball was able to use geolocation data: Uber monitored areas around government offices, each person who frequently opened and closed their applications in those areas was referred to as government employees. For them, fake cars appeared on the map or their run was simply ignored or canceled.

Greball schema

If you’ve read the wonderful visual above, you’re probably wondering “but who is the third category of people? The one with the horns”. Uber has acknowledged using this software, but mainly to “denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating their terms of service – whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt thier operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers”. ( This is the third category of people 😉 )

What is interesting about this kind of fact is that it is probably only one case discovered among many others, the tip of the iceberg, and we may wonder how many secret algorithms can exist in our increasingly digital world. What about you? Do you think that the information you disclose on social networks is only useful to those around you? What do you think we could learn about you if we crossed all the information that you have scattered on the Internet? Take some time to think about it… 🙂


PS : This is the first article about the news that I write on this blog. I would like to write more (about computer science) if you like it. Knowing that English is not my native language, thank you for being indulgent.
If you want to help me progress in English, I would thank you to indicate my mistakes in comments. Thus, I will correct them in order to provide content of better quality and to improve myself in the future. Thank you ! 😀


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