Uber algorithm locks Indian drivers out of accounts

Occurred: December 2022

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Problems with Uber's Real-Time ID Check identity verification system caused Uber drivers in India to have their accounts temporarily or permanently suspended, resulting in loss of income, and in some instances losing their jobs.

A 2022 Technology Review survey of 150 Uber drivers in India found that almost half had been temporarily or permanently locked out of their accounts as a result of problems with their selfie, with many suggesting the problem was likely to be a change in their appearance, or due to low lighting. 

In 2021, Neradi Srikanth, an experienced Uber driver in the southern Indian state of Telangana, was locked out of his account for a month having shaved his head for religious reasons. Srikanth argued his new look confused Uber's ID verification system; however, Uber ignored Srikanth's daily attempts to appeal and publicly accused him of 'community guideline violations'.

A 2021 audit by two tech policy researchers on the performance of four facial recognition tools on Indian faces found that Microsoft Face - the system underpinning Uber's Real-Time ID Check - failed to detect a single face amongst 1,000 images when applied to a database of 32,184 election candidates.


Operator: Uber
Developer: Microsoft

Country: India

Sector: Transport/logistics

Purpose: Verify identity

Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Employment - pay, jobs

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Complaints/appeals

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: September 2023
Last updated: November 2023