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FILE - In this Wednesday, March 15, 2017 file photo, a sign marks a pick-up point for the Uber car service at LaGuardia Airport in New York. Jeff Jones, president of the embattled ride-hailing company Uber, has resigned just six months after taking the job, the company confirmed Sunday, March 19. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

The Justice Department launched a criminal probe into Uber over tool to skirt regulations

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The Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation into Uber over a program it used to deceive regulators, Reuters reported, citing a person familiar with the probe, late Thursday.

The federal inquiry states the popular ride-share company used a software tool called Greyball to gain access into new markets where its service was not yet approved, such as Portland, Oregon.

The New York Times exposed Uber's use of Greyball on March 3. Uber discontinued the program five days later.

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A woman gets in an Uber car at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

A woman gets in an Uber car at LaGuardia Airport in New York, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. 

Uber lawyers said in letters to Portland authorities, which Portland made public in a report last week, that the Greyball technology was used "exceedingly sparingly" in that city, before the service was approved there in 2015.

The company said greyballing refers to the practice of showing some customers a different version of the app than most customers see.

The investigation is still in its early stages, sources told Reuters.

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