Portland, Oregon to demand controversial
Uber software tool
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[May 06, 2017]
By Dan Levine and Joseph Menn
(Reuters) - The city of Portland, Oregon
plans to subpoena Uber Technologies Inc to force it to disclose software
that helped its drivers evade local transportation regulators, a city
official said on Friday.
Uber has acknowledged using the software, known as Greyball, to
circumvent government officials who were trying to clamp down on Uber in
areas where its service had not yet been approved, including Portland.
It has since stopped the use of the software for that purpose, saying
the program was created to check ride requests to prevent fraud and
Reuters reported on Thursday that the U.S. Department of Justice has
begun a criminal investigation into Uber's Greyball program, and that a
Northern California grand jury had issued a subpoena to Uber concerning
how the software tool functioned and where it was deployed.
Portland began its own investigation of Greyball after the New York
Times revealed its existence in March. Uber has shared some information
with the city but has not turned over the Greyball software itself.
In an interview on Friday, Portland Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who
oversees the city's transportation department, said his colleagues on
the city council have pledged to support a subpoena against Uber, which
will be voted on next week. If Uber does not comply, Portland could
ultimately review its ability to operate in the city, Saltzman said.
"We are not ready to go there yet," Saltzman said.
In a statement, Uber's general manager for Oregon Bryce Bennett said the
company has "fully cooperated" with Portland and provided relevant
information to its investigation. The city said it found no evidence
Uber used Greyball to avoid inspectors since Uber was allowed to operate
there in 2015.
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A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile
telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph in central
London, Britain October 28, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Illustration
Portland received its own subpoena from the Northern California
grand jury for records relating to Uber's activities, including
emails between the city and the company or its representatives,
according to a copy of the document reviewed by Reuters.
The subpoena to Portland was issued on March 10, a week after the
New York Times report.
The Portland subpoena does not indicate what criminal laws are at
issue in the probe. Likewise, Uber's grand jury subpoena does not
list any federal statutes that may have been violated, a source
familiar with the document said.
A subpoena from a grand jury is a request for documents or testimony
concerning a potential crime. It does not, in itself, indicate
wrongdoing or mean charges will be brought.
In a statement, Saltzman said the city supports the federal
(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco, editing by Peter
Henderson and Cynthia Osterman)
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