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Ex-Uber driver takes legal action over ‘racist’ face-recognition software

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Ex-Uber driver takes legal action over ‘racist’ face-recognition software

An Uber driver who lost his job when automated face-scanning software failed to recognise him is accusing the firm of indirect race discrimination in a legal test case.

The black driver, who worked on the Uber platform from 2016 until April 2021, has filed an employment tribunal claim alleging his account was illegally deactivated when facial-verification software used to log drivers on to the ride-hailing app decided he was not who he said he was.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which is backing the action, claimed at least 35 other drivers had had their registration with Uber terminated as a result of alleged mistakes with the software since the start of the pandemic. It is calling for Uber to scrap the “racist algorithm” and reinstate terminated drivers.

Uber said it “strongly refutes the completely unfounded claims” and that it was “committed to fighting racism and being a champion for equality – both inside and outside our company”. The firm said the checks were “designed to protect the safety and security of everyone who uses the app by ensuring the correct driver is using their account”. Drivers can choose human verification of their picture, and when technology is chosen “there is always a minimum of two human expert reviews prior to any decision to remove a driver”, she said.

Uber has used the software since April 2020. In 2019 Microsoft, which makes the software, conceded facial recognition software did not work as well for people of colour and could fail to recognise them.

Studies of several facial recognition software packages have shown that error rates when recognising people with darker skin have been higher than among lighter-skinned people, although Microsoft and others have been improving performance. Uber said its software did not rely on scanning large numbers of faces, which had been blamed for introducing error. Rather it verified an already uploaded picture of the driver against their freshly submitted selfie.

In London, nine out of 10 private hire drivers are black or black British, Asian or Asian British, or of mixed race, according to a recent survey by TfL.

“Uber’s continued use of a facial recognition algorithm that is ineffective on people of colour is discriminatory,” said Henry Chango Lopez, general secretary of the IWGB. “Hundreds of drivers and couriers who served through the pandemic have lost their jobs without any due process or evidence of wrongdoing.”

A Nigerian driver who worked on the Uber Eats platform in Manchester until he was locked out in March after several failed attempts using the facial verification software, said his family had faced “serious suffering” as a result.

Abiodun Ogunyemi, a married father of three, said he had run up debts so large he could not afford his son’s bus fare to get to school. He says the photo on Uber’s records did not feature the longer hair or beard he currently has, but he has a distinctive scar over one eye and the rest of his face is visible. “I feel the algorithm is discriminatory to people of colour,” he said. “I know about five black people the same thing has happened to.”

Uber said anyone removed from the platform could appeal against the decision, with an additional human review.

On 10 April the driver in the test case, who asked not be named, tried to log on for work by submitting a photo through the app, but received a message from Uber saying he had failed to verify his identity and he was locked out of the system for 24 hours. He submitted a second photo after that period, which did not work either.

According to his claim, four days later his account was deactivated and he was sent a message stating: “Our team conducted a thorough investigation and the decision to end the partnership has been made on a permanent basis. The matter is not subject to further review.”

His case is also being backed by the Black Lives Matter organisation which said: “The gig economy, which already creates immense precarity for Black key workers, is now further exacerbated by this software.”

Microsoft declined to comment on an ongoing legal case.

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Naira depreciates further to N614/$ at parallel market

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Naira depreciates further to N614/$ at parallel market

The Nigerian naira has dropped to N614 against the dollar at the parallel section of the foreign exchange market.

The figure signifies a depreciation of N7 or 1.2 percent compared to the N607 it traded last two weeks.

Bureaux De Change operators (BDCs), popularly known as ‘abokis’, who spoke to TheCable in Lagos on Tuesday, said they purchase the greenback at N608/$, make a gain of N6, and then sell at N614.

At the official market, the naira also depreciated by 0.21 percent to close at N421/$ on Monday, according to information obtained from FMDQ OTC Securities Exchange — a platform that oversees official foreign-exchange trading.

Nigeria operates multiple exchange rate windows ranging from the importers and exporters window (I&E) window, where forex is traded between exporters, investors, and purchasers of forex, the SMEIS window where forex is sold to importers, and others.

International organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have constantly advised the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to unify the official and parallel market exchange rates.

But Godwin Emefiele, the CBN governor, had said that despite advice offered by IMF and the World Bank, developing economies such as Nigeria had the liberty of adopting “homegrown solutions to their economic problems.

According to him, the managed floating exchange rate, which allows the CBN to intervene in the market when there is a supply shock, would be in place as long as supply exceeds demand.

“They want us to free the exchange rate. And you do know that this has some impacts on the exchange rate itself,” he had said.

“When you allow that to happen, you will have an uncontrollable spiral on the naira.

“But what managed float means is that we have some measures in place to help control the spiral.”

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FG, states in trouble, as NNPC again fails to remit, despite N470.61bn revenue

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FG, states in trouble, as NNPC again fails to remit, despite N470.61bn revenue

These are challenging times for the federal and state governments as one major source of income to the federation account seems to be totally cut off.

On Monday, The National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) revealed it failed to remit monies to the federation account in May 2022 despite making N470.61 billion.

This is the fifth straight month NNPC has failed to credit the federal account while exporting crude at an average price of $100 per barrel.

Details of the June FAAC report obtained by The Harmattan News showed NNPC since the start of the year made N1.897 trillion, over N234.1 billion more than the expected revenue.

Sadly, however, NNPC said all the revenue had gone into various expenditure which includes petrol subsidy, oil search, Pipeline Security & Maintenance cost, National Domestic Gas Development and Nigeria Morocco Pipeline cost among others.

As expected, the bulk of the expenditure, N1.27 trillion, went toward recovery (also known as petrol subsidy).

In fact, NNPC said it has budgeted another N617 billion for petrol subsidy in June.

The report reads: “The Value Shortfall on the importation of PMS recovered from May 2022 proceeds is N327,065,907,048.06 while the outstanding balance carried forward is N617bn .”

“The estimated Value Shortfall of N845,152,863,012.97bn (consisting of arrears of N617bn plus estimated May 2022

Value Short Fall of N227,721,200,478.23) is to be recovered from June 2022 proceed due for sharing at the July 2022 FAAC Meeting,” it added.

The development means states have a tough road ahead and will have to look inwards to cover for the drop in federal allocations.

Already, some states have announced plans to slash workers’ salaries over dwindling income.

Kano Sate has already announced plans to slash workers’ salaries, following in the foot steps of the Ekiti State government that announced civil servants’ and political appointees’ salaries will be slashed in response to the present economic reality in the country.

Ekiti went further to suspend minimum wage implementation with no date of resumptions.

The Harmattan News had recently reported that pension contribution from governments dropped to a 16-year low in the first quarter of 2022.

From recent developments, it is more likely the figure will tank further.

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Nigerian govt to auction N225bn bond as search for funds continues

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Nigerian govt to auction N225bn bond as search for funds continues

Federal government bonds worth N225 billion would be auctioned today, Monday, June 20, 2022, by the Debt Management Office (DMO) at the primary market.

The debt instrument is being sold by the central government to raise funds to finance the 2022 budget deficit and in today’s exercise, the DMO is offering the notes in three tenors.

The debt office is anticipated to sell the FGN bonds at double digits to make the asset class more attractive to investors.

In a circular published on its website and obtained by The Harmattan News, all three maturities are re-opening, meaning they are from the previously sold bonds.

The circular noted that N75 billion worth of a 10-year bond with maturity in 2025 would be offered for sale at the auction. Another N75 billion worth of a 10-year note maturing in 2032 is up for grabs and N75 billion worth of a 20-year instrument with maturity in 2042 would be sold.

Intending subscribers would be expected to reach out to primary dealer market makers to buy the bonds for N1,000 per unit subject to a minimum subscription of N50 million and in multiples of N1,000 thereafter.

The interest would be paid by the government semi-annually, while the bullet repayment will be done on the maturity date.

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