A number of drivers in the United Kingdom are taking legal actions against popular ride-hailing service provider Uber over its real-time biometric identification checks which have led to misidentification causing affected drivers to lose their licenses as a result.
According to TechCrunch’s report on the issue, a representative of the union claims that members were wrongly suspended when they were misidentified.
“[The] facial recognition systems… are inherently faulty and generate particularly poor accuracy results when used with people of color,” the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) wrote in a blog post.
They then set up a crowdfund to fund the legal action against Uber and it’s also being backed by two worker’s rights groups in the UK.
The two individuals who prompted the widespread lawsuit are former UberEats courier Pa Edrissa Manhang and former Uber driver Imran Javaid Raja both of whom were “unfairly dismissed after the company’s facial recognition system failed to identify them.”
“Workers are prompted to provide a real-time selfie and face dismissal if the system fails to match the selfie with a stored reference photo,” the ADCU wrote. “In turn, private hire drivers who have been dismissed also faced automatic revocation of their private hire driver and vehicle licenses by Transport for London.”
Earlier this year, Uber was forced under legal action to reclassify its UK drivers as workers in order for them to earn benefits like pension pay and have holiday time.
This was due to a lawsuit filed on behalf of two Uber drivers, James Farrer and Yaseen Aslam who helped form the ADCU back in Feb. 2020.
Uber’s operation license was withdrawn back in 2019 by Transport for London (TfL) over “a pattern of failures.”
One of the main reasons for such harsh action was that the ride-hailing service allowed uninsured and suspended drivers to operate in the city, due to a loophole that allows them to simply upload their photos to another driver’s account.
To meet the regulator’s requirements, Uber introduced random driver checks via a facial recognition system that uses Microsoft‘s FACE API technology, according to the ADCU. (Uber won back its license in September of 2020.)
The union noted that Microsoft withdrew sales of its facial recognition software to US police departments and that the use of similar software has been discontinued or banned by Amazon, IBM, Axon, and other companies. It also cited stats showing that facial recognition programs are far less accurate for people of color.
Uber on the other hand defended its technology saying the entire process isn’t AI-based.
“Our Real-Time ID Check is designed to protect the safety and security of everyone who uses the Uber app by helping ensure the correct driver is behind the wheel,” Uber responded in a statement to TechCrunch.
“The system includes robust human review to make sure that this algorithm is not making decisions about someone’s livelihood in a vacuum, without oversight.” It added that no Uber or Uber Eats accounts are suspended solely as a result of AI.
However, Farrer said that the union has won at least 10 appeals in court against drivers dismissed by TfL that cite Uber’s ID checks. “With Imran [Javaid Raja], Uber and TfL have already admitted they got it wrong. But he was out of work for three months. No apology. No compensation,”