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Uber’s Facial Recognition System Continues to Threaten Drivers’ Job Security in India

Drivers say they get locked out of accounts due to facial hair, shaved head, changed haircut, and scratches on their device camera

Many Uber drivers have complained that the company’s Facial Recognition System (FRS) is posing a threat to their job security due to failures in face-match process in real time, according to a survey by MIT Technology Review. Almost half of the 150 drivers who were part of the MIT survey reported being temporarily locked out of their accounts due to problems in detection of their selfies. These problems ranged from slight changes in their appearance to lighting issues. The respondents have stated that factors such as facial hair, shaved head, changed haircut, and scratches on their device camera, or even low-budget cameras, may be affecting the face-scanning process under the company’s ‘Real-Time ID Check’ system. What is Uber’s Real-Time ID Check system? Uber had launched the system in 2017 in India as a security feature, which uses Microsoft Cognitive Services, to prevent frauds and drivers’ accounts being compromised. It requires the driver to share a selfie before going online, to ensure that the driver using the app corresponds to the account on Uber’s file. If the two photos do not match, the account is temporarily blocked until the company looks into it. Why does this matter? The issues raised in MIT’s report concern the job security of around 6,00,000 Uber driver-partners in India. In the past, the company had denied claims and had not addressed grievances of the drivers who faced the same issue. The Telangana Gig and Platform Workers' Union had also raised the issue of exclusion due to…

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Curious about privacy, surveillance developments and the intersection of technology with education, caste and welfare rights. Outside work, I am either reading, reflecting on my notepad, re-tuning my voice or just overthinking!

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