Legal actions are being faced by Uber for its use of software with facial recognition which allegedly discriminated between people on the basis of their colour.
In the UK, employment tribunal claims accusing the company for unfair dismissal after its facial recognition system failed to identify them, have been launched by three former workers against Uber.
With the help of two unions, by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), the legal claims were launched this week. In London, on Wednesday, protest was staged outside the company’s offices by Union officials and Uber drivers.
Uber’s facial recognition system, which help verify the driver’s and courier’s identity, is not able to effectively identify people with darker skin tone, the Union alleged. Some drivers also said that their Uber accounts were terminated due to technology not working.
“Hundreds of drivers and couriers who served through the pandemic have lost their jobs without any due process or evidence of wrongdoing,” IWGB general secretary Henry Chango Lopez said in a statement. “Uber must urgently scrap this racist algorithm and reinstate all the drivers it has unfairly terminated.”
According to Uber’s website, employees can have their identities verified using either Microsoft’s photo comparison software or human reviewers. The “Real-Time ID Check” system, according to an Uber spokesperson, “is designed to protect the safety and security of everyone who uses the Uber app.”
“The system includes robust human review to make sure that this algorithm is not making decisions about someone’s livelihood in a vacuum, without oversight,” the Uber spokesperson added.
Commercial facial recognition algorithms frequently misidentify minorities and people of color, according to studies. Last year, Microsoft stated that it would not sell facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States until the technology is regulated by federal law.
“Given this is an ongoing legal case,” a Microsoft (MSFT) spokesperson declined to comment on the Uber allegations.