Uber Eats Driver Faces Racial Discrimination through Facial Recognition Technology: A Call for Greater Transparency and Accountability in AI Applications

Uber Eats driver awarded payout in discrimination case

A black Uber Eats driver, Pa Edrissa Manjang, received a payout after facing “racially discriminatory” facial-recognition checks that prevented him from accessing the app for work. Mr. Manjang joined Uber Eats in November 2019 and initially did not have to regularly send selfies to register for jobs. However, the app started increasing verification checks in 2021, leading to his account being removed due to “continued mismatches.”

Uber stated that the real-time ID check was meant to ensure safety for all app users and that decisions were made with oversight to avoid impacting someone’s livelihood unjustly. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ACU) supported Mr. Manjang’s case, expressing concerns about the impact of artificial intelligence on his income and labelling the excessive selfie requests as racial harassment.

Mr. Manjang, now reinstated and working in Oxfordshire, viewed the out-of-court settlement as the end of a challenging period. His case shed light on the potential issues associated with AI, particularly for low-paid gig economy workers, and he hoped it would contribute to strengthening rights and protections for ethnic minorities in relation to AI.

Baroness Falkner, chair of the EHRC, emphasized Mr. Manjang’s right to understand the opaque processes that affected his work without having to resort to legal action. She highlighted previous cases where ethnicity impacted technology use, including in law enforcement, government offices, and educational institutions. These instances underscore the need for greater transparency and accountability in the application of AI technologies.

The excessive selfie requests made by Uber Eats can be seen as a form of racial harassment against black drivers like Mr. Manjang. Facial recognition technology is often biased against people of color due to historical racism embedded within its algorithms.

It is crucial that companies like Uber implement measures to prevent such incidents from happening again in future by increasing transparency around their algorithms and ensuring they are free from bias.

The case of Mr. Manjang serves as a reminder that even though AI has many benefits, it can also be used unfairly against certain groups of people if not designed correctly.

In conclusion, facial recognition technology should be used with caution and oversight when dealing with sensitive information such as identity verification checks in order to avoid any potential discrimination or harassment towards individuals based on their race or ethnicity.

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