Portland approves Uber subpoena

The city of Portland has officially escalated its fight with Uber.

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The council unanimously voted to issue a legislative subpoena for documents related to Greyball, and the software itself, which the ride hailing company used to evade regulators in 2014.

The legal ask follows an unfulfilled request by the city for Uber to submit its Greyball playbook for use in its ongoing investigation. Portland opened an investigation into Uber’s tactics days after officials learned Uber was evading regulators.

Uber has admitted to using the software in Portland in 2014, but company officials say Greyball has since been discontinued.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who led the charge for a subpoena, says council’s decision stems from an article printed in the New York Times, citing Uber’s use of the evasion software — specifically in Portland — while the company was operating illegally.

Saltzman said regulators suspected Uber was using evasive measures back in 2014, “but it was not until the New York Times investigation that we understood how sophisticated and widespread Uber’s evasion really was.”

Uber will have three days to respond or comply with the subpoena once it is issued by the city attorney.

“It is my hope that I will have the support of Council to come back in the coming months with a slate of code revisions that will be informed by both what comes of this process, and the recommendations I’ve received from the Private for Hire Advisory Committee and PBOT,” Saltzman says.

He adds that he and the council support ridesharing and believe the service provides a benefit to the community.

“However, as a regulatory body charged with ensuring the safety of the public we must ensure everybody is playing by the rules, providing universal service and acting ethically,” he says.

The investigation didn’t find any indication that Uber is still using Greyball in Portland. But Bureau of Transportation staff intends to use information gathered from the playbook to inform future enforcement regulations.