Uber is launching a biometric identification system for its drivers in the US, but it’s not the one that regulators have been asking for.
The ride-hailing company has been in a protracted conflict with state and municipal authorities across the US who have attempted to introduce biometric background checks for Uber and similar services. In most cases Uber has resisted such regulatory efforts by threatening to halt its services in the areas concerned, arguing that its own driver background checks, which do not use fingerprint background checks, adequately ensure rider safety.
Now, it’s launching a facial recognition system that it argues could improve passenger safety by making sure that its drivers are who they claim to be. The system requires a driver to take and send a selfie to Uber through a mobile app when starting work. Uber then compares that image to the biometric data it has on record for the driver via Microsoft Cognitive Services, and if it doesn’t match, the account is suspended so that Uber can investigate.
The system was first proposed for Uber’s operations in China, where the company was concerned about practices such as drivers’ sharing of accounts and otherwise fraudulent account use. While the system should help to improve passenger safety, it’s also designed to help Uber more tightly control its operations and its drivers, an objective that is clearly in play as the company begins to roll out the system in America.