Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government Software Crime Privacy United States

Justice Department Opens Criminal Probe Into Uber (washingtonpost.com) 87

parallel_prankster quotes a report from Washington Post: The Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Uber's use of a secret software that was used to evade authorities in places where its ride-sharing service was banned or restricted, according to a person familiar with the government's probe. The investigation is in its early stages, but deepens the crisis for the embattled company and its chief executive and founder Travis Kalanick, who has faced a barrage of negative press this year in the wake of high-profile sexual harassment complaints, a slew of high-level executive departures, and a consequential trade secrets lawsuit from Google's parent company. The federal criminal probe, first reported by Reuters, focuses on software developed by Uber called "Greyball." The program helped the company evade officials in cities where Uber was not yet approved. The software identified and blocked rides to transportation regulators who were posing as Uber customers to prove that the company was operating illegally.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Justice Department Opens Criminal Probe Into Uber

Comments Filter:
  • So it's software designed to implement the right not to self-incriminate. Sort of.

    • by dreamchaser ( 49529 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @10:10AM (#54360493) Homepage Journal

      Methods to evade laws have nothing to do with the 5th Amendment. One can argue for or against the areas that ban Uber and their laws, but your analogy is flawed. This software is more like a real criminal using methods to avoid undercover police.

      • So it's more like a radar detector. Given that those are radio receivers and therefore governed by the FCC (yes, there is case law on the subject pertaining to citizens right to know that they're being spied on), this is really no different. But try telling that to cops in Virginia.

        • No, a RADAR detector listens for transmissions that exist.

          Greyball is/was more like posting lookouts while performing a break in or other forbidden activity is in progress

          • I would say it is more like radar jammer where it uses a false transmission to hide the activity.

            Highly illegal, of course.

          • by mjwx ( 966435 )

            No, a RADAR detector listens for transmissions that exist.

            In theory, yes.

            However as RADAR and LIDAR began to use tighter beams, RADAR detectors had to start using active signals to detect them. If you're using a passive detector for LIDAR, the camera has already got you before your brain registers the beep from the detector (assuming the detector works of course).

            Personally I have no issue with RADAR detectors, they aren't illegal in Western Australia because they don't work. Everyone I knew who had one still got speeding tickets from multi-novas (mobile spe

      • "Methods to evade laws have nothing to do with the 5th Amendment. One can argue for or against the areas that ban Uber and their laws, but your analogy is flawed. This software is more like a real criminal using methods to avoid undercover police."

        I'd say it's a variation of 'We reserve us the right to refuse service to anyone.'

        • by Jzanu ( 668651 )
          A company can't target denial to government investigators for the explicit purpose of covering up the criminal activities being investigated.
        • No it is a variation of, 'we reserve the right not to participate in a criminal investigation against us', which is not a right.
        • 1) They didn't refuse service, they continued providing app data to those users. It was just intentionally false data.

          2) "We Reserve The Right to Refuse Service" is a dog-whistle sign that is intended to be understood in a certain way by certain people. If you don't know who that is, you won't know anything is wrong. Luckily though, the owner of the shop is generally not able to communicate that to employees, and so it doesn't get "enforced."

          3) There is no right to refuse service, nor any right to be served

          • 1) They didn't refuse service, they continued providing app data to those users. It was just intentionally false data.

            Which is an intentional obstruction of measuring compliance.

      • This software is more like a real criminal using methods to avoid undercover police.

        Is there a law against evading undercover police?

    • Well, it's criminal conspiracy. Other than that, I suppose that you could say people trying to hide crimes are "implementing their right to not self-incriminate."
  • At the shop (Score:4, Funny)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @10:07AM (#54360475) Homepage Journal

    Shopkeeper: what can I get you?

    Me: I'd like a dozen softwares and three hardwares, please.

  • by WCMI92 ( 592436 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @10:15AM (#54360511) Homepage

    They've already commited enough shenanigans to warrant the corporate death penalty.

    • by Ichijo ( 607641 )
      Because anything that's illegal is automatically immoral?
      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Because anything that's illegal is automatically immoral?

        Vice versa, a lot of things that are immoral are not illegal.

        Uber has committed both illegal and immoral acts wantonly in such quantities that any distinction is academic at this point in time. They need to be put down.

    • This investigation seems instead designed to go after a bunch of executives and engineers rather than the corporation itself.

      There are lots of things that are official company actions that violate laws that they could be investigating, but they're investigating part that people were keeping secret but using anyways. That means that this is going to implicate individuals criminally, and most of the corporate liability will be civil negligence.

  • Poor old Travis (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @10:15AM (#54360513) Homepage

    I wonder if this particular specimen of arrogant entitled Tech Bro will finally realise its better to work with regulators around the world than to try and bully your way onto the scene and hope you built up enough critical mass to bulldoze your way through all those tedious regulations and laws that other companies have to comply with.

    The idea behind Uber is a good one, but I hope the company itself goes out of business. Its business and HR practices stink and we don't need a company like that running transportation services (not that they'd stop there tbh).

    • Re:Poor old Travis (Score:4, Informative)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @11:07AM (#54360831)
      He hasn't just been bullying, he's been sweetening people in power up as well.
      It's an odd kind of feeling seeing these guys come in and treat places in the west as if it's a banana republic with easily bought officials - not just insulting but depressing when it works.
      • by tattood ( 855883 )

        treat places in the west as if it's a banana republic

        What does this have to do with clothing?

    • Re:Poor old Travis (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @11:24AM (#54360921)

      Some of Ubers ideas are good, but most of the good ones could have been evaluated by regulatory bodies and then applied to existing passenger livery regulations. It's not unreasonable to have a better booking system for rides. It's not unreasonable to use mapping software to determine the approximate cost of a fare. It may possibly even be reasonable to allow the use of private vehicles for passenger livery part-time, which means that part-time drivers would have to buy-in to whatever dispatch service they wish to work for. It even may be reasonable to allow customers to rate drivers and drivers to rate customers to essentially determine risk/worth/surcharge.

      Thing is, at the end it still is necessary for the drivers to make sustainable wages. It's necessary to protect passengers with proper insurance. It's necessary to ensure that drivers are properly vetted. Bad things have happened over the years, many taxi and sedan regulations are reactions to those bad things, and while it's always a good idea to re-evaluate rules to see if they're still necessary, I expect that since the act of moving a fare from one place to another really hasn't changed all that much, most of those regulations still need to be in-effect.

      • Wish I had mod points right now.

        I've spoken to people over the years that view pretty much any kind of government regulation as a terrible idea that needs to be destroyed. Noting that there are indeed some regulations that exist simply because someone's bank account received a strange influx from an anonymous donor (even if not personal accounts, campaign contributions from lobbyists for extra consideration applies as well), some regulations do in fact exist because bad things had happened and whatever ind

        • proper insurance is needed taxis have it uber kind of has it.

        • by TWX ( 665546 )

          Another thing about "the free market" is that sometimes it is not possible for the buyer to beware. There's no means for the customer to know if there's a real problem or not until they experience it.

          Getting a ride is one of those cases. People have been abducted because they got into vehicles with strangers and the strangers have ill intent. It's not common, but there's no means for the person to evaluate the risk entirely.

          • The free market also doesn't deal with externalities, pretty much by definition. A driver can cause financial loss to lots of people, in and out of the car, and when I'm crossing the street I don't know which car will run me over or what the driver's insurance is like.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        It's not unreasonable to have a better booking system for rides. It's not unreasonable to use mapping software to determine the approximate cost of a fare. It may possibly even be reasonable to allow the use of private vehicles for passenger livery part-time, which means that part-time drivers would have to buy-in to whatever dispatch service they wish to work for. It even may be reasonable to allow customers to rate drivers and drivers to rate customers to essentially determine risk/worth/surcharge.

        The thing is, the booking by app thing, has been a thing for many years now and many third party apps are happy to work with many providers. The UK app "Minicabit" allows you to call a minicab (private hire vehicle) and select from a list of providers, they also allow you to rate your experience. A minicab is a pre-agreed fare, not metered in the UK. This part is happening and was happening before Uber ever reared it's ugly head.

        Uber is essentially legal here in England as it falls under the same regulat

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Friday May 05, 2017 @11:51AM (#54361131)

      I wonder if this particular specimen of arrogant entitled Tech Bro will finally realise its better to work with regulators around the world than to try and bully your way onto the scene and hope you built up enough critical mass to bulldoze your way through all those tedious regulations and laws that other companies have to comply with.

      Kalanick and Elizabeth Holmes should get together. They would be the power couple of fraudulent...I mean disruptive...tech startups. They could start a new company called Uberos to disrupt the corrupt lab-testing industry by creating an app that allows people who have bought their own equipment for personal testing to test samples for other people too!

    • by Mitreya ( 579078 )

      The idea behind Uber is a good one, but I hope the company itself goes out of business

      But if it does, we may have to deal with cabs. Back to the days of:

      Having to find a taxi phone number (if you could) and spend 5 minutes explaining to the operator where they should send the cab.
      And then sometimes cab might never show up for which you may or may not get an apology.
      Cab drivers refusing to take you because it is not worth the trip (not far enough or not enough fares at the destination).
      Cab credit card reader mysteriously breaking when you are about to pay.
      Sometime the credit card reader

  • It's a novice mistake for a corporation to violate criminal law. The right way is to pay off a Congressman to get the law changed, while at the same time making it illegal for your competitor so that the government will raid them with machine guns when they try to engage in the behavior that was made legal for you.
  • The only thing I haven't seen Uber accused of is facilitating murder sprees or white power movements. They've got everything else covered.

    • by Jzanu ( 668651 )

      facilitating murder sprees or white power movements

      Give it a month, Uber is taking pains to hide from oversight for a reason. Practically it will be tied into the same bullshit that has taken root in many of the fake "innovation" companies like Airbnb.

    • by Nidi62 ( 1525137 )

      The only thing I haven't seen Uber accused of is facilitating...white power movements. They've got everything else covered.

      So we just have to find an instance where a Neo-Nazi took an Uber to a protest and we are good to go?

  • I thought part of the Trump plan to make America great again was to turn a blind eye towards Corporate America. Why is the Justice Department doing its job?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    a criminal investigation was launched into the government's use of secret software that was used to secretly spy on citizens.

  • WHAT TOOK SO LONG?!

  • Let's see, Uber has already had large public announcements abut developing self-diving cars, then flying cars. Each of these were after some bad press about Uber. What will they announce next to distract from this.

    Alternatively, there just could be so much bad press that any PR stunt they hold will be immediately after something bad came out.

    Uber challenged the stale Taxi monopolies with a new dispatch and payment processing system. However, eventually VCs will get tired of buying people cab rides.

    • Let's see, Uber has already had large public announcements abut developing self-diving cars, then flying cars. Each of these were after some bad press about Uber. What will they announce next to distract from this.

      The self driving cars came _before_ the bad news about technology being stolen from Google. And I bet Google will have flying pigs before Uber has flying cars.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think Travis and Uber are definitely pushing the limits...the sexual harassment stuff is clearly wrong and they've pushed the boundaries on countless other activities. However, is the ability for a corporation (entity) to preserve itself through technology actually criminal? It seems to me that unless Uber was avoiding paying some type of city tax during trips within a city which hadn't "approved" Uber then what you have here is a "you didn't break any laws, but we're pissed because you didn't receive our

  • Given their malicious attempts at evading compliance, that should at least nullify any agreements made to allow their operation.

  • I want to jump on the bash Uber as much as the next. First the police were violating the terms of service. Secondly I have a feeling many of cases were instances of police entrapment. Local police requesting pick ups near city borders, new Uber drivers that don't know it is illegal at some small airport. Finally the police were trying to spy on all uber drivers in an area without a warrant.

    • by bongey ( 974911 )

      Waze does the same thing, it shuts down police officers accounts because they use the service to try to hide there speed traps. No different here.

One person's error is another person's data.

Working...