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Uber's Facial Recognition is Locking Indian Drivers Out of their Accounts 

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A driver being denied access to the Uber app.

In a survey of 150 Uber drivers in India, almost half had been either temporarily or permanently locked out of their accounts as a result of problems with a selfie.

Credit: Selvaprakash Lakshmanan

One early evening in February last year, a 23-year-old Uber driver named Niradi Srikanth was getting ready to start another shift, ferrying passengers around the south Indian city of Hyderabad in his midsize sedan. He pointed the phone at his face to take a selfie to verify his identity. The process usually worked seamlessly. But this time he was unable to log in.

It didn't take long for Srikanth to come up with a theory as to why. He had just returned from visiting the Hindu Tirupati temple, 350 miles away, where he had shaved his head and prayed for a prosperous life. 

The Uber app prompted Srikanth to try again, so he waited a few minutes and took another picture. Rejected again. 

"I was worried about bookings. We have daily targets where if we complete a certain number of bookings, we get incentives," Srikanth says. "I was anxious to log in and start driving, and not waste any time." So he tried once more. This time he used a second phone to pull up an image of himself from before he visited the temple. When he took a picture of it, Uber informed him that his account had been blocked.

From MIT Technology Review
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