Uber Facing Subpoena Over Officer-Avoiding Greyball Software

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Uber is facing the possibility of being subpoenaed by the city of Portland in Oregon, local Commissioner Dan Saltzman revealed in a statement provided to OregonLive on Thursday. Portland authorities are considering filing a subpoena request against Uber as the San Francisco-based ride-hailing company failed to provide them with its "playbook" that they suspect contains techniques of avoiding local Code Enforcement Officers and other regulators and specifically describes the usage of "Greyball," a software that the company's drivers previously used to avoid regulators and potential fines.

The company previously admitted to using Greyball for two weeks in 2014 when it was operating in Portland without all of the necessary permits but is claiming that the software hasn't been used by its drivers ever since. Local authorities seemingly don't believe those claims but have so far failed to disprove them, which is why they've requested the company's playbook that they believe is an integral piece of evidence in their case. The request was filed in March following a month-long investigation into the matter that was launched after a report from The New York Times revealed the existence and usage of the software in Portland, with Uber failing to provide its playbook and the software to the local authorities within the time frame provided by the city. While the San Francisco-based tech giant is seemingly unwilling to cooperate with the investigation, Saltzman's recent comments on the situation suggest that the matter won't be dropped and the city may try to compel Uber to yield the requested software and documents with a subpoena in order to continue its investigation.

Greyball was reportedly used by Uber drivers to identify and refuse rides requested by Code Enforcement Officers and other local regulators in Portland, thus effectively avoiding potential fines. The March investigation conducted by the City of Portland also encompassed Lyft, but local authorities found no evidence of Uber's main competitor using similar techniques of avoiding regulators. It remains to be seen whether the Portland City Council agrees to request a subpoena against Uber after not filing for such a writ since 2006, but an update on the situation is expected to follow shortly.

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