Uber Real-time ID Check

Occurred: 2016-

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Uber's 'Real-Time ID Check' system enables the ridehail company to check that a driver’s face matches what the company has on file in order to minimise fraud and increase security.

Developed by Microsoft, Real-Time ID Check was rolled out by Uber in the US in 2016, India in 2017, the UK in 2020, as well as other markets.

Reaction

Real-time ID Check ihas been praised as a quick, effective means of verifying driver identity. However, it has also suffered criticism for misidentifcations which sometimes result in loss of pay and jobs, racial bias, and privacy trangressions.

  • August 2018: CNBC reveals transgender drivers in the US are being kicked off the Uber app as it seemingly struggles with selfies of people gender transitioning.

  • March 2021: Multiple cases of UK drivers being misidentified and losing their licences and jobs are exposed by the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) and Worker Info Exchange (WIE), leading to a lawsuit.

  • March 2021: A WIRED investigation reveals BAME couriers working for Uber Eats in the UK have been threatened with losing their jobs, had accounts frozen, or were permanently fired due to 'racist' software that is incapable of recognising their faces. In addition, the workers say they have little or no ability to appeal, and that those that were able to make their case were summarily rejected.

  • December 2022: The Technology Review reports that many Indian drivers are being locked out of their accounts lock-outs due to factors such as facial hair, shaved heads, changed haircuts, and scratches on their device cameras, costing them work and, in some instances, their jobs.

  • December 2022: A judge rules that Uber drivers are permitted to proceed in a class action against Microsoft on the basis that it had failed to obtain proper consent to capture and store driver faceprints under the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

Transparency

In March 2021, a group of Uber drivers from the UK and Portugal won an lawsuit in Amsterdam against Uber and competitor Ola in which the two companies were forced to reveal more about how their driver surveillance systems work, in addition to how their systems assign work, deduct earnings, and suspend drivers.

Operator: Uber; Uber Eats
Developer:
Microsoft

Country: India; UK; USA

Sector: Transport/logistics

Purpose: Verify identity

Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity; Employment - pay, jobs

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Complaints/appeals

System

Research, audits, investigations, inquiries, litigation

News, commentary, analysis

Page info
Published: October 2021
Last updated: December 2022