Uber’s new selfie check helps make sure riders get the driver they’re promised

Uber is rolling out a new selfie security measure which will eventually cover the entire U.S. It’s a selfie system for drivers designed to help prevent driver fraud, so that you can more reliably count on the person who picks you up being the one whose picture you see in your app.

The system is actually called Real-Time ID Check, and it uses Microsoft machine learning to compare a selfie snapped in the moment against a driver’s registered profile pic, which Uber says is designed as a protective safety measure for rider and driver alike. Drivers are “periodically” asked to take a selfie in their Uber driver app before being allowed to accept fares, and if the selfie doesn’t match the pic on file, the account is temporarily locked down so Uber can investigate further.

On the rider side, the safety benefit is obvious; at the very least, it means the driver you’re getting is the same one who went through Uber’s onboarding process (which includes background checks), rather than someone who may have just been using the phone or account credentials of another driver. It’s not a guarantee of perfect safety (nothing is), but verifying driver identity should definitely lead to the elimination of edge cases where riders would otherwise be in danger. Plus, it would avoid things like this “ghost driver” phenomenon in China.

real_time_id_check_frame_1080-1On the driver side, Uber says that it’s also a safety measure designed with a driver’s best interests in mind – the company notes that this will prevent driver fraud, by essentially requiring an additional verification measure each time you login. The equivalent Uber is looking to evoke seems to be with bank account security – it’s aiming to protect drivers against identity theft. We’ve reached out to Uber to ask about their data retention policies around images captured for the sake of comparison against the on-file reference, but they did not provide a response as of publication time. UPDATE: Uber followed up to say it saves the photos according to local laws to keep track of whether or not it passed the verification check in case of any issues occurring with the driver or their account.

The system has been in pilot for a few months now, according to Uber, and mismatches that occurred were mostly the result of original profile photos that weren’t clear images to begin with. Uber says over 99 percent of drivers during testing were verified, meaning only a small percentage of cases where the system failed to validate was because someone genuinely wasn’t who they claimed to be.

Real-Time ID Check is rolling out across cities where Uber operates in the U.S. We’ve asked when and if it will also be offered in international markets, but have not received a response in time for publication. UPDATE: Uber says it does expect to expand the feature internationally later on, following the U.S. rollout.