This past week, I have encountered somewhat annoying functionality on the Uber service that I have not seen previously.
The app has requested me to take an image three times to confirm that I was wearing a mask (I was) in Finland and Estonia. On the fourth ride, the requirement was gone.
A message that popped up in the app when requesting a ride:
I had a driver scamming once in Mexico claiming that I didn’t wear a mask when I refused to pay cash:
Here’s what Uber tells riders about this functionality:
Why am I being asked to take a photo of myself wearing a face cover or mask?
In response to COVID-19 pandemic, governments and public health authorities globally are requiring or recommending that individuals wear masks or face coverings to reduce the spread of the virus in our communities. Per these requirements and recommendations, Uber has introduced a “No Mask, No Ride” policy, which requires that drivers and riders wear a mask when giving or taking rides. Users who do not comply with this requirement may be reported and subsequently asked to submit a selfie showing that they are wearing a mask or face covering before they will be permitted to request their next ride. This is to help protect our users and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in connection with Uber’s services.
HOW DOES UBER USE MY PHOTO?
Once submitted, Uber processes your photo only for the purpose of verifying that you are wearing a mask or face covering. This is accomplished using object recognition software, which specifically looks for the presence of a mask or face covering as an object in the photo. This software does not involve facial recognition or any biometric data processing, meaning the technology does not collect or use face prints or any unique elements or measurements of your face derived from the photo.
Once your mask verification is complete, Uber may notify drivers in your area that you have successfully completed this step for purposes of accepting your ride request.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY PHOTO ISN’T VERIFIED?
Riders who are prompted to submit a photo showing that they are wearing a mask or face covering must complete this step before they may be permitted to request a ride.
If you submit a photo and the software is unable to verify that you are wearing a face cover or mask, you may submit a new selfie for verification either immediately or at a later time. Until the software successfully detects that you are wearing a face covering or mask in your submitted photo, you will not be allowed to request a ride.
If you believe there has been an error, or if you have a health consideration that prevents you from completing this process, you may also file a support ticket with the Uber support team. No adverse action will be taken against your account if a verification is not successfully completed.
HOW LONG ARE MY PHOTOS KEPT?
Your photo submissions are deleted immediately upon completion of your mask verification.
HOW DO I TAKE A PHOTO OF MYSELF?
When prompted, take a live photo of yourself and submit it through the app. Make sure that you:
– Place your face cover or mask over your nose and mouth.
– Try to avoid touching your face or the face cover with your hands.
– Hold the camera at eye-level and align your face in the white lines.
– Turn on the lights if you’re in the dark.
– Relax and hold your phone steady to avoid blur.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE A HEALTH CONSIDERATION THAT PREVENTS ME FROM USING THIS FEATURE?
Uber understands that some users may be unable to complete this verification. If you believe you may require special accommodation, please contact the Uber support team.
DO THOSE RIDING WITH ME NEED TO COMPLETE THE VERIFICATION?
At this time, Uber is only completing face cover verifications on riders requesting trips through the app. However, everyone riding, driving, and delivering on Uber’s platform must wear a face cover or mask. Please remember that if you’re traveling in a group, or you allow other people to take trips with your account, you are responsible for ensuring everyone in the car complies with platform requirements.
HOW IS MY DATA KEPT SECURE?
You only have one face, so we know that it’s really important to make sure that your photos are kept safe in order to protect your privacy. For this reason, Uber has put in place appropriate data security measures and safeguards to protect your information. In addition, we only use your photos for the purpose of verifying you are wearing a mask or face cover. We do not use these photos for any other purpose, and we do not share them with third parties.
Interestingly, if you use Apple Pay to pay, you must remove your mask to confirm the transaction after taking the image or plug in your pin for the payment authorization to process.
Do I trust Uber that these images are not mistakenly stored somewhere but deleted immediately after verification? No, I don’t. They now have three masked photos of my face.
I used Uber frequently in Mexico over four months, probably on average at least once a day, and never had this “verification” even in cities where masking was mandatory (neither is in Finland nor Estonia, although businesses can require you to wear one).
This verification doesn’t deter me from using the service, but another hassle when you request a car if you need to do it frequently.