Uber — the ride-sharing platform known for aggressively breaking city laws, promising to harass journalists, fostering a corporate misogynist bro-culture, scamming riders via bogus “vomit fraud” charges and regularly kicking gay people out of their cars — has thrown another log onto their bonfire of disrepute by kicking trans Uber drivers off of their app if their profile photos don’t match their driver’s licenses.
The Uber system responsible for deactivating trans Uber drivers is a feature called Real-Time ID Check. It was rolled out to “protect both riders and drivers” on September 2016.
Here’s how it works: From time to time the Uber app will ask drivers to pull over and take an impromptu selfie. The app will them compare their selfie to past images using something called Microsoft Cognitive Services. If the selfie differs too much from past images, Uber will temporarily suspend a driver’s account while it “looks into the situation.”
While the system is meant to prevent unauthorized drivers from chauffeuring passengers under other drivers’ accounts, it unintentionally affects trans Uber drivers whose appearances have changed while transitioning.
Janey Webb is one of several trans Uber drivers affected by the system. She began driving for Uber in November 2017 and regularly uploaded new images of herself as she continued transitioning so that Uber would have a record of her changing appearance in case it ever wanted to verify her identity.
Then, on July 4, 2018, Uber’s Real-Time ID Check system deactivated her account when her selfie didn’t match her driver’s license photo. As a result, she was unable to drive during a big money-making holiday weekend.
She had to drive two hours away to a physical Uber office to eventually get the issue resolved. Getting it resolved took three days even though Uber claims Webb could’ve handled it over the phone.
One trans woman told CNBC that she has been forced by Uber to verify her identity over 100 times in the past year and a half.
Uber could fix this problem by consulting with trans organizations and tech developers. Until then though, more trans Uber drivers will likely get hassled by its Real-Time ID Check.