Daily Report: Uber Stays in the Spotlight


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Travis Kalanick, Uber’s chief executive. Uber is facing a federal inquiry over a program that it used to deceive regulators who were trying to shut down its service.

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Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Uber, the world’s dominant ride-hailing service, has gone barely a week this year without making headlines. This week has been no exception.

On Wednesday, the trouble-prone company — which is already grappling with crises over a workplace culture rife with harassment and a leaked video of its temperamental chief executive berating an Uber driver — faced a crucial court hearing with a rival, Waymo, over accusations of stolen trade secrets involving driverless-car technology. A ruling in that case is expected soon.

Then late Thursday, Reuters reported that Uber was the subject of a federal criminal probe over a program that it used to evade law enforcement personnel who were trying to clamp down on its ride-hailing service. Uber devised a tool called Greyball to show a fake version of Uber’s app to the authorities. The company’s use of the tool was first reported by The New York Times in March.

The federal inquiry was initially disclosed last week by the city of Portland, Ore., in a transportation audit that it published, writes Mike Isaac, a New York Times technology reporter. Portland was one of the cities where Uber had deployed its Greyball tool.

After The Times revealed Uber’s use of Greyball, Portland expressed concern and called for an investigation. The city said in its audit report that it had been notified by the United States attorney’s office for the Northern District of California about the existence of the inquiry.

Uber has said it discontinued the use of Greyball to evade the authorities in March. Even so, the repercussions from the tool — and the headlines — keep on coming.

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