Uber on Tuesday said riders will have to take seflies of them wearing masks, so it can verify driver complaints of customers not wearing masks. “If a driver reports to us that a rider wasn’t wearing a mask, the rider will be required to take a selfie with their face covered before they’re able to take another trip with Uber,” wrote Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety product.
Uber said its technology detects the mask as an object in the photo and does not process biometric information. However, it didn’t shed any light on where it will store the selfies, and if it will share them with someone outside of Uber, or use them for purposes other than mask verification. It also didn’t specify for how long it will store the selfies. We have reached out to them for more details.
The company already requires drivers to take mask selfies as a prerequisite to signing on to the app. However, it clarified that its mask-verification system is separate from a facial recognition system it already has in place since 2017 to prevent fake drivers. The mask verification feature will roll out to the US and Canada by the end of September, and across Latin America and other countries after that, Uber said. Riders and drivers will be free to cancel a trip, without penalty, if the other isn’t wearing a mask.
Uber claims to have distributed masks to 1.4 million drivers and delivery people, and will continue to do so for the rest of the year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Uber hard. The company had to lay off over 6,500 employees globally, including 600 people in India. Even aside the pandemic, in California, it narrowly avoided a shutdown of its entire fleet as a last minute court order averted an expected shutdown in California after an appeals court gave them last minute reprieve from an order which directed them to reclassify their contractual drivers as employees.
While the company continues to struggle, cab drivers in India, who drive for Uber and rival Ola, have said that they are having for extremely long hours in what they described as “isolated” and “toxic” working conditions. A study conducted by two labour unions found that an overwhelming majority of drivers — over 95% of them — don’t have any form of insurance.