Uber is being sued over its ‘racist’ facial recognition algorithm, which is five times less likely to recognize dark-skinned drivers, preventing them from signing off on work.
The Granthshala Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWUGB) is taking action on behalf of an anonymous driver who says he was locked up so many times that his account was terminated, claiming indirect racial discrimination.
It is also calling for a boycott of Uber and protests outside the ride-hailing company’s London headquarters.
Drivers are asked to scan their face at random intervals to access the back-end of Uber’s system. If they are unable to gain admission, their contract is at risk of being terminated.
Alex Marshall, IWGB president and himself a former gig economy courier, told Granthshala: “The gig economy itself is racist. It mainly exploits migrant and ethnic minority workers. The way it is set up is to systematically exploit these people and without proper procedures, it simply means that people are actually forced to accept low wages and work in these conditions. “
“By challenging Uber legally, it’s something they can’t ignore and the idea is that it closes the wider issue of unfair treatment.
“If something like an algorithm isn’t working and firing people for the color of their skin, what else isn’t working at Uber? Hopefully it’s Uber, Deliveroo, to target vulnerable, precocious workers.” For those who misbehave, chew and spit at the click of a button completely.”
One in five dark-skinned female faces and one in 20 dark-skinned men fail the algorithm, according to research – a significant issue in London where up to 95 percent of drivers are black or ethnic minorities.
The case, which could force Uber to dismantle its facial recognition system, is made possible by the right to protection from discrimination, confirmed by a Supreme Court decision that found that Uber drivers are workers who are subject to equality laws. protect the.
The driver’s strike marks the start of a campaign by Black Lives Matter UK and the IWGB, calling for Uber to drop its controversial facial recognition algorithm, reinstate and offer unfairly terminated drivers and couriers . Fair termination process called for by over 70 lawmakers last year.
Obinna Uzoeghelu, 37, who lives in London, started working for Uber Eats in August 2020. His account got closed for three months without any reason, for some time he continued to work without paying and was eventually thrown out of the sector.
Mr Uzoghelu, whose wife was heavily pregnant at the time, said it was very difficult to communicate with Uber, sending multiple emails, using all the contact options, to no avail.
It was only when the IWGB intervened that the reason for its termination was revealed to be a failure of facial recognition. Ultimately, the union was able to reverse the termination but unfortunately it was too late, the former employee would not have been able to terminate if he had waited; He now works for another food delivery service.
“As a family man whose wife was about to give birth, I couldn’t sleep when this happened. I kept wondering how we would survive this,” he said Granthshala.
“During that period, you could not even talk to people about how you are feeling because of the COVID rules and the lockdown. I was sad; When you have a job that you think will help you secure an income and it’s been unfairly snatched away, it’s very difficult.
“I was shocked and even more so that Uber withheld wages earned for several months. I support the call to boycott Uber and take action; people stand up and count.”
Poplar and Limehouse Labor MP Apsana Begum said: “We know that black and minority ethnic people are over-represented in these areas of work, but especially in these terminations, so facial algorithms are very worrying.
“I think everyone should log off their Uber app if they are a passenger and show solidarity with drivers in London and beyond. It is important to support strike actions like this and, of course, it has to do with the company’s efforts.” There is an impact in terms of revenue and profits – Uber London had a profit of over £6 million just last year.
“We are talking about super profits year after year, but those workers who are working in poverty and not respecting their basic rights as employees. I fully support the strike action.”
A Black Lives Matter UK spokesperson said: “The impact of Uber’s facial recognition algorithms reflects the complete lack of care for Black people and their livelihoods. The gig economy that already creates extreme uncertainty for Black Key workers is now This is further aggravated by software that prevents them from working solely on the basis of the color of their skin. Such racist practices must end.”
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /