Ride-share giant Uber has announced an update to its policy that will require some prospective passengers to submit a selfie of themselves wearing a mask before they are allowed to use the app to request a car.
The update comes following a May 2020 change to the company’s policy that mandated the wearing of face coverings for both drivers and passengers amid safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As ABC reports, the prompt to submit the mask selfie will focus on passengers who have been flagged for not wearing a mask since the May policy was enacted. Though Uber executives say the majority of passengers have complied, they admit there have been some cases where individuals refused to do so.
“If we do have people who are still violating the policy, we want to be able to verify them with an extra step,” Uber’s Senior Director of Product Management, Sachin Kansal, told ABC News. “And if they’re not wearing a mask, they will not be able to take a ride.”
The facial recognition and mask detection technology that is behind this latest update is the same that Uber has been using since May to ensure its drivers have been complying with the new regulations. The software can detect whether an individual is wearing a mask while still being able to identify them, and can even detect if it is being worn properly, with the nose covered as well as the mouth.
If a face covering is not detected, a driver is unable to go online and a passenger will not be permitted to summon a vehicle and use the service.
Uber has required potential riders to submit to a checklist designed to ensure they aren’t experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms before they can catch a ride, but a photo has not been mandated until now.
With regards to any privacy concerns riders may have, the company has stated that the selfies that are submitted will not be harvested for their biometric data, and will in fact be deleted after roughly four days.
“In about four days we delete the picture,” Kansal said. “The reason why we keep it for four days is in case there is any issue, there is any complaint.”
Uber has stated that it hopes the new feature will reduce the number of violations, and has expressed an interest in educating people on the importance of wearing face coverings, as opposed to punishing them for violations right away.
“We want to make sure that they actually understand what the policy is,” said Kansal. “But if we see repeat violation, then we can take further action, including taking them off the platform.”
Source: ABC News
September 1, 2020 – by Tony Bitzionis