News Flash: Fake ID Fears Threaten Uber’s London License

Transport for London alleges Uber isn’t doing enough to verify drivers’ identities

Transport for London (TfL) has said it won’t renew Uber’s license to operate in the city, after finding that more than 14,000 trips involved drivers who had faked their identity on the ride hailing app. The regulator said: “A change to Uber’s systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver.” TfL also said that dismissed or suspended drivers have been able to create a new Uber account. 

Uber can appeal against the decision, during which it can continue to operate in London. Having first notified TfL about the systems issue in May 2019, Uber said it had since implemented technical fixes to resolve it, according to a report by The Guardian, which said the firm also plans to bring in facial recognition technology to help identify drivers. Uber has described the decision to revoke the license as “wrong” after the reforms it has put in place.

However, union representatives have said the introduction of biometric forms of identification for drivers would be “disproportionate and discriminatory”, according to a report by Wired, which contends that TfL could be appeased with less controversial technology, such as an additional password or codes similar to those used by mobile banking services. Wired quoted Jonathan Kewley, head of technology at law firm Clifford Chance, as saying that Uber will have to carefully balance TfL’s expectations with those of the Information Commissioner, and its own workforce. 

For more information, see the Transport for London press release and the reports by Wired and the Guardian.