UK Uber drivers rally against Microsoft’s facial recognition tech

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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UK-based drivers union App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) has demanded US tech giant Microsoft to restrict the use of its facial recognition technology by ride-hailing platform Uber. 

Microsoft’s tech came under scrutiny after several drivers were misidentified and got their licenses revoked by Transport for London (TfL).

The union has reportedly identified seven individual instances of “failed facial recognition and other identity checks” which have directly led to the loss of job or licence revocation action by TfL against the drivers.

The ride-sharing platform had its UK operational license revoked by TfL citing repeated safety failures in 2019. ADCU stated that Uber rushed through the implementation of Microsoft’s facial recognition for a workforce electronic surveillance and identification system in its efforts to regain the UK operations license.

During its launch in April 2020, Uber denoted its ‘Real-Time ID Check’ as a mechanism to ensure that the correct driver or courier is using its employee account while protecting the safety and security of everyone using its app.

The company said that the technology will “verify that driver accounts aren’t being used by anyone other than the licensed individuals who have undergone an Enhanced DBS check”. Uber added that drivers could “choose whether their selfie is verified by photo-comparison software or by our human reviewers”.

Uber was also forced to legally acknowledge UK drivers as workers with benefits like minimum guaranteed pay, holiday pay, pension plans and others after a UK Supreme Court ruling necessitated drivers to be treated as workers and not self-employed.

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