Uber will require some riders to take mask selfies

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As its ride-sharing business continues to struggle during the COVID-19 pandemic, Uber announced that it will begin to require some riders to take selfies to prove they are wearing masks.

The company already requires drivers and delivery workers to take mask selfies as a prerequisite to signing on to the app. To date, Uber says that more than 3.5 million drivers and couriers have completed more than 100 million mask verifications.

Uber isn’t requiring mask selfies for all riders, but if a driver reports that a customer is not wearing a mask, the company says that rider will be required to take a selfie before using Uber again. And riders and drivers are free to cancel a trip, without penalty, if the other person isn’t wearing a mask.

“We firmly believe that accountability is a two-way street,” Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety, said in a blog post.

The mask verification feature will roll out to the US and Canada by the end of September and across Latin America and other countries after that. Uber notes that this technology detects the mask as an object in the photo and “does not process biometric information.”

In May, Uber announced a series of new rules aimed at enhancing safety during the pandemic. The company reduced the number of people allowed to ride in an Uber X vehicle from four to three. It also vowed to spend $50 million on supplies for drivers, such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and bleach wipes. Today, Uber said that it has distributed 50 million face coverings and 800,000 packets of disinfectant sprays, wipes, and hand sanitizer to drivers.

The company’s ride-sharing business is still struggling to recover from the pandemic. Gross bookings in its ride-hailing division, or the amount of money the company takes in before paying drivers, fell 73 percent year over year in the most recent quarter. The previous quarter saw its ride-sharing division down 80 percent.

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