monday, 8 may of 2017

DOJ conducting criminal investigation of Uber for avoiding law enforcement

The Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Uber Technologies Inc. for the use of a software tool that helped drivers evade local transport regulators, according to a Thursday report by Reuters. The software, known as "Greyball", was part of a larger system named Violation of Terms of Service that analyzed credit card, device identification, location data and other factors to predict whether a ride was legitimate.

Greyball would use this same method to detect if a ride was potentially a law enforcement agent. Portland officials reported that Uber had used Greyball to evade 16 transportation officials by denying them dozens of rides. Uber admitted to using the technology in Portland during 2014 before they were approved to operate within the city. According to Reuters' sources, the investigation has included grand jury subpoenas, but is otherwise in its early stages.

With the rapid growth of companies like Lyft and Uber, ride-sharing services have been among the most controversial business models in recent history. In April, The Missouri State House of Representatives approved a bill to standardize state-wide ride sharing rules.

Earlier in April, The US District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a preliminary injunction to block Seattle's law that would allow drivers for taxis, Lyft and Uber to unionize. In March a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California approved a $27 million settlement in a class action lawsuit between Lyft and its drivers.

The suit challenged Lyft's characterization of the drivers as independent contractors. In December the European wing of Uber was indicted in Denmark on charges of assisting drivers in their violation of taxi laws, although Copenhagen prosecutor Vibeke Thorkil-Jensen stated that this is just a test case seeking judicial assessment of Uber's involvement in the illegal acts of two of its drivers.

Last April Uber settled a lawsuit brought by 385,000 drivers in California and Massachusetts regarding their status as independent contractors. In several states, ride-sharing companies have met significant legal opposition, frequently led by competitors such as the taxi industry. Other unresolved questions surrounding this new business model continue to prompt debate among lawmakers.

(Published by Jurist - May 5, 2017)

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