Former driver alleges Uber Eats app began asking him for multiple photos of himself per day and finally dismissed him for ‘continued mismatches’
A former delivery driver who is suing Uber Eats over allegations that its facial recognition system is racially biased has said the company treats its delivery drivers as “just numbers”.
Uber Eats requires drivers to submit a photo of themselves before starting a shift to verify their identity.
But Pa Edrissa Manjang said the company’s app began increasing its requests for images to multiple times a day because it did not recognise him.
“Your algorithm, by the looks of things, is racist,” Manjang said.
An employment tribunal last week rejected Uber’s motion to dismiss Manjang’s discrimination claim, meaning the case will move to a full hearing.
Uber told Silicon UK that automated facial verification “was not the reason for Mr Manjang’s temporary loss of access to his courier account”.
The company added that Uber Eats’ Real-Time ID Check system is used for safety and security purposes and includes “robust human review” to “make sure that we’re not making decisions about someone’s livelihood in a vacuum, without oversight”.
Manjang, who worked for Uber Eats from November 2019 and April 2021 while employed full-time as a financial assistant, offers a different account, claiming he was dismissed by email following what it claimed were “continued mismatches”.
When he asked Uber that a human being review the photos he was told that after “careful consideration” his account was being deactivated.
Manjang told The Guardian the company doesn’t “respect or value” their staff and had an “aggressive” focus on profits.
“As a result, for the people that work for them, we are just numbers,” he said.
The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU), which is supporting Manjang’s claim, says the heightened verification checks amounted to racial harassment.
A judge at the east London employment tribunal said there was a “lack of clarity about what the processes were that had led to the deactivation” and that these were “only brought to light in the grounds of resistance”.
The use of facial recognition has been met with growing resistance from campaigners in part over its potential for inaccuracies when applied to racial minorities, as well as due to privacy concerns.
Australian appliance chain The Good Guys in June suspended a trial of the technology used for security purposes following a complaint by a consumer group, while the UK Information Commissioner in May fined US-based Clearview AI £7.5m over its unauthorised use of facial recognition data.