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Uber Rolls Out 'Selfie Security' Feature

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Uber announced on Sept. 23 that it will require drivers to periodically verify their identity via selfie.

The new security feature, called Real-Time ID Check, was announced in April and will prevent multiple people from using the same account, ensuring all riders are guaranteed an Uber-approved driver.

Drivers will be required to take a photo of themselves before accepting new rides, according to VentureBeat. The selfie is then compared to the driver's profile picture, which Uber keeps on file.

The comparison will be made using facial recognition technology from Microsoft's Cognitive Services. If the automated comparison thinks the selfie doesn't match the profile picture, then the driver's account will be suspended until Uber's employees manually verify the driver. 

The system isn't perfect, and sometimes Microsoft's software fails to recognize a true match.

"During our pilot of Real-Time ID Check over the past few months, the majority of mismatches were due to unclear profile photos," Joe Sullivan, Uber's security chief, wrote on the company's website. 

Sullivan isn't concerned that drivers will be overly inconvenienced by the new layer of security. Even if a driver's selfie doesn't automatically match, he says, "more than 99% of drivers were ultimately verified ... [and] verification takes only a few seconds to complete."

Drivers can prevent being flagged as a non-match by ensuring their profile pictures are clear, high-quality photographs, according to Engadget.

In the past, Uber's driver verification process had been criticized for being too "lax." In 2014, a former Uber driver denounced the taxi service's third party background check to Gawker's ValleyWag.

"It consists of filling out your name, address, DL & SSN online," he continued. "That's it... One person could fill out all the info and hand off the approved account to another person. You can't do that in the taxi world." 

Real-Time ID Check is an effort to address this concern, and Sullivan says it's just one example of many that Uber's Global Safety team has been exploring.

"Riders receive their driver’s name, photo and vehicle information to ensure they get into the right car with the right driver," he wrote. "We’ve built into the app easy ways for people to share their journey on a map with friends and family." 

Sources: VentureBeat, Uber, Engadget, ValleyWag / Photo Credit: Uber

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