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Uber gets a blue check system for rider identity document verification

Drivers argue selfie-based facial recognition they already use would be safer
Uber gets a blue check system for rider identity document verification

Uber is introducing a blue check system to verify users on its app, in a move designed to increase safety for drivers. But it will not require the type of selfie biometric face matching that drivers have requested in the past, instead relying on document verification.

A report from the Chicago Tribune says the ride sharing company is piloting the document verification program in 12 U.S. cities. The majority of existing users will receive verification automatically, without taking any additional steps. Uber’s website says the rider verification process “involves cross-checking a rider’s account information provided during signup against third-party databases.” Those who are not automatically verified can upload a photo of a government-issued ID card for authentication and ID verification.

Heather Childs, chief trust and security officer for Uber, says “drivers want to know more about the people who are entering and exiting their vehicle. We want to know that riders are who they say they are, and we have to send a clear message that if you’re looking to do harm, Uber is not the place to do it.”

Drivers, however, say the new program does not go far enough. The Tribune quotes Lenny Sanchez, director of the Independent Drivers Guild of Illinois in Chicago, where drivers have been shot and killed while doing their job. Sanchez is pushing for a verification system that requires users to take a selfie for facial recognition when they request a ride – something drivers are already required to do when they sign up.

“We know they have this technology,” he said. “All they have to do is flip the switch and have passengers do that as well, and that would be the greatest deterrent to people wanting to use the app to commit crimes. It would probably make them think twice before trying to target an innocent person trying to make a living.”

Uber, meanwhile, says the identity verification program “isn’t a guarantee of someone’s identity or good behavior, but it does help us build trust and accountability among users on our platform.”

Facial recognition for drivers in use across major markets since 2016

Uber has been using facial recognition to verify drivers since 2016. Prior to that, it used fingerprint biometrics. The company launched facial recognition in China in 2016, with face biometrics from Chinese provider Megvii (Face++). The U.S. followed suit later that year by launching Real Time ID Check, which uses Microsoft machine learning for selfie-to-document verification. In 2017, a facial recognition program for Uber drivers launched in India.

And in 2020, Uber’s Irish operations deployed digital ID tools from Au10tix to verify riders who selected cash as their preferred payment option. That program used identity document verification, requiring users who opted to pay with cash to scan their voting credentials, national ID, passport, or driver’s license to have their ID verified.

Uber settles biometric identity verification discrimination case

Facial recognition has not necessarily proven to be a boon for every Uber driver. The company just settled a lawsuit filed by a driver in the UK, who was locked out of the app after its Microsoft-powered biometric identity verification performed “continued mismatches.” Pa Edrissa Manjang, who drives for the company’s Uber Eats food delivery service, said bias against ethnic minorities built into the facial recognition engine resulted in his account being deleted and subsequent loss of income. Uber has previously stated that its ID verification FRT is less accurate for visible minorities.

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