Uber's use of Greyball was recorded in late 2014, when an enforcement inspector in Portland, Oregon, tried to hail an Uber auto downtown in a sting operation against the company.b Uber quickly identified them as city officials, based on data collected from the app and in other ways.
The Uber HQ team overseeing Ripley could remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops as well as shut down the devices.
Background: Uber has ruffled regulatory feathers around the world by not abiding by taxi license rules and classifying its drivers as independent contractors rather than works.
The use of this tool raises questions for Uber because the company has in the past used a phony version of its app to thwart authorities. It was officially called "the unexpected visitor protocol", but employees who knew about it nicknamed it Ripley after the main character in the Alien movie franchise.
Ensign said security tools such as ULocker is similar to those used by other companies and gives Uber a way to block access to data when an employee loses a device.
In a statement, Uber spokesperson said: "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data".
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'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.
In that same vein, three sources told Bloomberg that Ripley had proved useful when foreign police officers showed up without warrants or with warrants that were far from specific.
Bloomberg specifically cites a May 2015 incident in Montreal where a team of investigators for the Quebec tax authority raided Uber's local office. It cooperated with a second search warrant that explicitly covered the files and agreed to collect provincial taxes for each ride. But as he works to rebrand Uber in the eyes of the public and set the company back on track, he continues to uncover new messes that Kalanick left behind, including regulatory threats to Uber's business overseas, and a major data breach made worse by former employees' efforts to hide it. Ripley allowed engineers based at the ride-hailing company's San Francisco headquarters to quickly deny remote access to driver and customer data.
It was part of a broader program called VTOS, shorthand for 'violations of terms of service, ' that Uber says it developed to protect its service. It's also facing at least four other inquiries by the U.S. government.
But some employees felt that the system slowed down legitimate investigations, and one academic said that the use of the system could potentially amount to obstruction of justice.
It also mentions another system, called uLocker, which it says was contemplated for times when Uber wanted to be "less transparent".