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Is Uber's Facial Recognition Software Discriminatory?

on Friday, 15 October 2021.

Uber's facial recognition software for drivers is discriminatory - or that is what three workers are currently alleging.

What Software Is Used?

Uber drivers currently provide a photograph of their face to login to their Uber account for work. If the software considers the photograph doesn't match the photograph on file, the worker's risk having their account terminated. Uber point to the fact that there will always be a human review in the event of there being no match and that the termination of an account will only happen in the event of recurrent problems. The company also say they give the drivers a choice between an automated check or a human check.

In 2019, the manufacturers of the software recognised that it "doesn’t work as well for women as it does for men, it doesn’t work as well for people of colour", meaning  it was "more likely to find error…it’s more likely to find a mismatch". These comments appear to have been made in the context of a wider debate about democratic freedoms and government regulation and, when writing this article, we have not checked whether the software has developed since 2019 or whether the company would still have the same concerns now.

An Overview of The Claims

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) are supporting members in bringing three separate claims to employment tribunals alleging that Uber's decision to use a facial recognition system to verify the identity of their drivers indirectly discriminates on the ground of race.

ADCU are supporting two members bringing indirect racial discrimination claims, harassment claims and victimisation claims related to race. The two drivers are also supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Commission cites a concern about the use of potentially discriminatory artificial intelligence in automated decision making.

IWGB are supporting a member with their employment tribunal claim for indirect racial discrimination. IWGB is also requesting that Uber discontinue use of the facial recognition technology.

Looking Forward

These claims are yet to be heard in the Employment Tribunal and we will report on their outcome when they are. How technology impacts on different groups within society is likely to be a developing theme over the coming years.

Employers should critically consider the use of algorithms or artificial intelligence in the workplace to prevent possible instances of indirect discrimination.

If you wish to discuss these issues further please do not hesitate to contact Michael Halsey in our Employment Law team on 07554 432 829 or please complete the form below.

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