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Uber to end use of Greyball tool to evade authorities

The tool has helped the ride-hailing company avoid regulators in cities where the service isn't yet legal.

Uber says it will stop using a secretive tool called Greyball to identify certain unwanted users.

Uber said Wednesday that it will stop using its secretive Greyball tool to thwart efforts by local authorities to catch the ride-hailing company violating local regulations.

The tool, which Uber had used since 2014, helped the company avoid regulators in cities where the service isn't yet legal but drivers are still picking up rides. By collecting in-app data to identify and target certain individuals, like law enforcement officers, Uber's app could show that no cars were available or show a mock-up of the app with fake Uber cars.

Uber is now reviewing its use of the technology, Joe Sullivan, the company's chief security officer, wrote in a company blog post Wednesday.

"We have started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date," Sullivan wrote. "In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward."

In cities where Uber isn't legal, authorities sometimes put together sting operations in which they hire Ubers and then ticket drivers and impound cars. As part of the operations, police often make continuous attempts to hail Uber cars, which is how Greyball targets them.

Greyball, which was earlier reported on by The New York Times, also identifies unwanted users by checking credit card information, social media profiles and other online information.

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