Uber workers allege flawed face biometrics prompted their firing
Some couriers and drivers working for Uber Eats and Uber in the UK have claimed that they either were fired or had some of their work benefits negatively affected because of a biased biometric facial verification system used by the company.
In an investigative report, Wired revealed that 14 of the workers have stated they had their contracts terminated after being accused of subcontracting their shifts to other individuals, because the selfie biometric system in place failed to recognize who they were. But the workers told the publication they had never subcontracted shifts to anyone as their pay was too small to let them do so.
Those affected by this are of the BAME ethnic minority community.
The Uber facial identification system works by a photo comparison process which allows the individual to take a photo of themselves for biometric comparison with a photo already stored in the company’s database. The photo check allows for a choice between an automated system and human verification, Uber says, and human review is performed whenever someone is removed from the platform, but the drivers allege there is no mechanism to appeal an error by the AI.
Some workers said they were permanently sacked or had their accounts blocked because at some point, the selfies they took failed the Uber real-time ID check, and as a result, they have not been able to pay their rents or make ends meet.
They explained that they were removed from the Uber platform without any possibility to appeal, and even when they pleaded to have their dismissals overturned, they met with rejection.
One of the victims told Wired his selfie was once rejected by the biometric system after he had shaved his beard because he was preparing for a job interview. When he submitted his photo, he was informed of a non-match and that he should give information about the person replacing him within 24 hours or he would be fired.
Wired reports that Uber adopted Microsoft’s biometric software as a way to prevent work from being subcontracted to people ineligible for the job, but the software has in the past recorded failures, especially in identifying non-white people.
Meanwhile, the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) has been vocal on the issue, and has called on the authorities that be to clamp down on Uber and put in place the necessary legal framework to protect gig economy workers from such abusive treatment by Uber.