In an attempt to reduce fraud and boost passenger safety, Uber is implementing facial recognition technology beginning on September 30. Before starting a driving session, Uber drivers will now be asked to take a photo of themselves “periodically” so that Uber can match that photo against the photo Uber has on file. The driver’s account will be temporarily blocked if the photos do not match. Uber Chief Safety Officer, Joe Sullivan, said, “This prevents fraud and protects drivers’ accounts from being compromised. It also protects riders by building another layer of accountability into the app to ensure the right person is behind the wheel.” Uber will use Microsoft’s product, Cognitive Services, for its facial recognition platform.
However, while Uber hopes to increase passenger safety, there are also some privacy concerns. Face verification is less problematic than some other types of facial recognition software uses, like when it is used for identification of an unknown person. But Uber still needs to be careful because biometrics are sensitive and should be held securely, used only for the reasons they were collected and only be collected with an individual’s consent.
Uber revealed that all of the data will be encrypted when it is sent between the Uber driver’s mobile device and the Microsoft software, and that the photos will only be retained in accordance with local laws. Next time you take an Uber you might see this new safety feature in use.