The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) recently started a criminal investigation of Uber's usage of officer-avoiding "Greyball" software, several sources with knowledge of the matter said on Friday. The federal probe into the San Francisco-based company is far from being completed and there's currently no indication of whether there's a realistic chance that Uber ends up facing criminal charges for its potentially illegal practices. The ride-hailing giant was recently served with a subpoena from a grand jury in Northern California, which proves that the investigation of the company is criminal in nature. The contents of the subpoena pertained to Greyball as the jury requested a number of documents related to the software and its usage history.
Regardless, the sole existence of a subpoena doesn't necessarily indicate that Uber is guilty of any crime, though the firm recently admitted to "sparingly" using the software in a statement provided to authorities in Portland, Oregon. Portland officials recently revealed that they're considering subpoenaing Uber over the matter themselves, but it seems that another authority already did so. According to recent reports, Uber is currently in the process of conducting an internal investigation into the matter as the company is trying to find out to what degree did its drivers use the Greyball tool to avoid Code Enforcement Officers across the country and who instructed them to do so. The controversial software reportedly allowed Uber's riders to identify and refuse rides requested by city officials who were authorized to issue them with fines. Some of the company's employees used the program in Portland in late 2014 when Uber was still operating without all of the necessary licenses and permits, though local authorities haven't proved that the company engaged in those practices after officially launching its services in the city in spring of 2015.
Uber and the DOJ have yet to confirm that the San Francisco-based tech giant is under a criminal investigation due to its use of Greyball. The existence of the officer-avoiding software was originally uncovered by The New York Times in March, after which the city of Portland started an official investigation into the matter. The latest turn of events marks yet another issue for Uber that was recently hit with departures of several senior executives and a tech theft lawsuit filed by Alphabet's Waymo.