Department of Justice Begins Criminal Investigation into Uber

May 5, 2017

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It’s been a bad couple of months for Uber. The ride-sharing service, which launched in 2010, has been the target of intense scrutiny, boycotts from riders and now, it’s the subject of a federal criminal investigation.

According to a report from Reuters, the US Department of Justice has begun a criminal investigation into the company’s use of a tool known as “Greyball,” a fake app. Greyball was used for years to help Uber avoid law-enforcement efforts to document whether it was operating in cities where it was banned or in legal grey areas.

News first broke of the company using the Greyball software in early March, and since The New York Times reported on it, Uber said that it prohibited the use of Greyball for the purpose of avoiding law enforcement. Instead, the company said that it was created to check ride requests in an effort to prevent fraud and to safeguard its drivers.

The ride sharing app Uber is seen on a smartphone in front of a binary background, in Bydgoszcz, on August 7, 2016. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Image courtesy of Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Last week, Bloomberg reported that there was a federal probe into Uber’s use of Greyball, but only now do we know that it’s a criminal investigation. Uber and the Justice Department both have yet to comment on the matter, and the investigation is still in its early stages according to sources close to the matter.

This is the latest blow in a string of issues the rideshare giant has faced so far in 2017. The year started with a #DeleteUber movement following the company’s decision to continue rides to JFK airport while NYC taxi drivers had halted service as a form of protest after the immigrant travel ban. Since then, the company has faced other harsh criticisms for its workplace culture in addition to a lawsuit and reviews of sexual harassment claims.

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