TfL under fire for relying on Uber facial-verification data in licensing decisions

by Jeremy

Transport for London’s (TfL) reliance on information from Uber’s facial verification-based driver ID system is coming under increased scrutiny following multiple instances of misidentification, leading to unionized drivers losing their private hire licenses. The drivers and their union say that, despite the technology’s questionable veracity, TfL has been overly reliant on it when making license revocation decisions, which can severely impact drivers’ livelihoods if they cannot operate their vehicle legally. TfL’s unchallenging acceptance of the evidence provided by Uber’s Microsoft-based verification system has resulted in numerous legal challenges being raised by drivers who say they have had their licenses unfairly revoked.

Earlier this month (5 July 2021), for example, a Magistrate’s Court ordered TfL to reinstate the license of an Uber driver, which it found was revoked without notice or appeal following a failed facial-verification check.

The City of London Magistrates Court found TfL moved straight to revoke the driver’s private hire license on identity fraud grounds and relied solely on evidence from Uber’s facial verification software without conducting its investigation, as a licensing authority, into the incident.

“The Court noted that at no stage had there been any risk to the public and that TfL had proceeded straight to revocation, despite other sanctions being available to them,” wrote the driver’s solicitor, Abbas Nawrozzadeh of Eldwick Law, in his notes of the judgment.

“They had relied on the actions of a body that fell outside of their licensing power and revoked the license without any investigation into actual events on that day. The Court described the decision as perverse and unreasonable, stating that as a licensing body, TfL should be ashamed of bringing this case to court as it represented a waste of public funds.”

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