At the time, Uber had just started its ride-hailing service in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later declared the service illegal. To build a case against the company, officers like Mr. England posed as riders, opening the Uber app to hail a car and watching as miniature vehicles on the screen made their way toward the potential fares.
But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in the app did not represent actual vehicles. And the Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from the app and in other ways. The company then served up a fake version of the app, populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.
It seems every aspect of Uber is shady as hell. From Greyball, to their toxic work culture filled with cases of sexual harassment, to not wanting to pay drivers as employees with benefits.
In 2015, I linked up to an interesting story of a journalist who went undercover as an Uber driver to find out if it was possible, as Uber claimed, to earn $90K a year driving for them. Spoiler: it is not possible.