ADCU & WIE demand Microsoft suspend licensing of facial recognition systems to Uber after failures leading to victimization of gig workers.
· Call for Microsoft to suspend Uber’s license to use its facial recognition systems after Uber driver deactivated and had license revoked after system failure
· Demand for Transport for London to review all revocation decisions based on evidence produced by flawed Microsoft system used by Uber
The App Drivers & Couriers Union and Worker Info Exchange are demanding that Microsoft suspend Uber’s license to use its facial recognition and worker surveillance systems with Uber’s UK workforce.
The call comes after the union identified seven cases of failed facial recognition and other identity checks leading to drivers losing their jobs and license revocation action by Transport for London.
In one case the driver was dismissed from employment by Uber and his license was revoked by Transport for London. The union was able to assist the member to establish his identity correctly forcing Uber and Transport for London to reverse their decisions.
Microsoft suspended the sale of its facial recognition system to US police forces in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer. The firm recognized that without appropriate safeguards in place, the software could be misused especially with minority groups. Research shows that Microsoft’s facial recognition solution can have an error rate as high as 20% especially when used to identify people of colour.
Uber rushed to implement its workforce electronic surveillance and identification system in a bid to win back its license after Transport for London’s decision to not renew its license in 2019. According to evidence given by TfL at Uber’s licensing appeal in September 2020 it is apparent that the regulator encouraged the introduction of surveillance tech by Uber. However, no regulatory standard has been set and no regulatory or equalities impact assessment has even been carried out by TfL.
The union has written to the Mayor of London to demand that all Transport for London private hire driver license revocations based on Uber reports using evidence from its flawed Hybrid Real Time Identification systems (incorporating Microsoft facial recognition) are immediately reviewed. WIE has also made a complaint to the ICO to demand an investigation.
James Farrar, Director of Worker Info Exchange said:
We are unfortunately seeing a surveillance tech arms race in the gig economy, driven in part by platform employers attempting to move to more hidden forms of algorithmic control in a bid to avoid employer liability and in part by greater public pressure on the public license to operate by regulators like Transport for London. Uber has rushed to implement a flawed facial recognition system provided by Microsoft and uses it against a 70,000 strong workforce it is already well known for exploiting but without the appropriate safeguards in place. Microsoft must have no truck with Uber’s exploitation of vulnerable workers, they must suspend Uber’s license to use this solution immediately.
Yaseen Aslam, President of the App Drivers & Couriers Union said:
94% of licensed private hire drivers in London are BAME and Microsoft openly acknowledges that their facial recognition systems have a failure rate of as much as 20% when used with women and people of colour. Based on these statistics and going by our current caseload, thousands of innocent people will lose their jobs and face licensing action if the use of this racist software by Uber is not stopped. Private hire drivers in the UK have been exploited enough by Uber without Microsoft adding to the problem.
1. App Drivers & Couriers Union, Worker Info Exchange and Big Brother watch letter to the Mayor of London. https://www.workerinfoexchange.org/letter-to-mayor-khan
2. App Drivers & Couriers Union, Worker Info Exchange letter to Clare Barclay, CEO of Microsoft UK. https://www.workerinfoexchange.org/letter-to-clare-barclay
3. ACLU statement on Microsoft decision to halt sales of facial recognition system to US police forces https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/aclu-statement-microsoft-face-recognition-moratorium
4. TfL evidence at Uber’s licensing appeal. Statement records Uber’s decision to introduce facial recognition and TfL’s support for this decision. https://www.workerinfoexchange.org/helen-chapman-witness-statement
5. ADCU and Worker Info Exchange are separately bringing action against Uber for unfair dismissal based on ‘detected fraudulent activity’ in the Netherlands under data protection law. https://www.adcu.org.uk/news-posts/app-drivers-couriers-union-files-ground-breaking-legal-challenge-against-ubers-dismissal-of-drivers-by-algorithm-in-the-uk-and-portugal
6. MIT research indicating bias in Microsoft facial recognition systems. http://proceedings.mlr.press/v81/buolamwini18a/buolamwini18a.pdf