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

Uber driver

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.

Business

Adopting CNG can reduce Nigeria’s inflation – FG

The Nigerian government has said that successfully adopting Compressed Natural Gas can reduce inflation, which soared to 33.69 per cent in April 2024.

The Programme Director of the Presidential Initiative on Compressed Natural Gas, Pi-CNG, Michael Oluwagbemi, disclosed this during a one-day South-South and South-East stakeholders’ engagement meeting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

He noted that Nigerians can realize between 40 to 50 per cent savings from petrol upon adopting CNG.

“It can reduce inflation. It is cheaper. You can realize between 40% and 50% savings from patrol. This is good for Nigeria, and it is safer.

“It is 18 times safer than petrol and diesel. It is cleaner and safer for the environment,” he said.

He added that Nigeria would save about $2.5 billion by converting every one million vehicles to CNG.

Recall that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu asked all federal government ministries, departments and agencies to procure CNG buses.

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Business

Nigeria won’t need to import fuel by June — Dangote

Aliko Dangote, Chairman of the Dangote Group, announced that by next month, Nigeria will no longer need to import gasoline due to the operational plans of the Dangote Refinery.

Speaking as a panellist at the Africa CEO Forum Annual Summit in Kigali, Dangote highlighted that the refinery, which has already commenced supplying diesel and aviation fuel in Nigeria, has the capacity to fulfil the diesel and petrol needs of West Africa and the aviation fuel requirements for the entire African continent.

Dangote emphasised, “Right now, Nigeria has no cause to import anything apart from gasoline, and by sometime in June, within the next four or five weeks, Nigeria shouldn’t import anything like gasoline; not one drop of a litre.”

Highlighting how far the oil company has come, Dangote expressed how they are focused on ensuring that the continent will depend less on imports in the near future.

“We have enough gasoline to give to at least the entire West Africa, and diesel to give to West Africa and Central Africa. We have enough aviation fuel to give to the entire continent and also export some to Brazil and Mexico,” he said.

“Today, our polypropylene and our polyethene will meet the entire demand of Africa, and we are doing base oil, which is like engine oil; we are doing linear benzyl, which is a raw material to produce detergent. We have 1.4 billion people in the population; nobody is producing that in Africa.

“So, all the raw materials for our detergents are imported. We are producing that raw material to make Africa self-sufficient.

“As I said, give us three or a maximum of four years, and Africa will not, I repeat, not import any more fertiliser from anywhere.

“We will make Africa self-sufficient in potash, phosphate, and urea; we are at three million metric tonnes, and in the next twenty months, we will be at six million metric tonnes of urea, which is the entire capacity of Egypt. We are getting there.”

Dangote recalled how his dream for further investment in Africa as well as ending fuel importation in Africa has culminated in what is now one of the biggest refineries in the world.

“For some of us, despite the boom of the capital market in the US—you know, Google, Microsoft, and the rest—we didn’t participate; we took all our money and invested in Africa.

“We had this dream just about five years ago, and we said we wanted to move from five billion dollars in revenue to thirty billion dollars in revenue, and we made it happen. It is possible and now we have made it happen and now we have finished our refinery.

“Our refinery is quite big; it is something that we believe that Africa needs. If you look at the whole continent, there are only two countries that don’t import petroleum products, which is a tragedy.

“They are only Algeria and Libya. The rest are all importers. So, we need to change and make sure that we don’t just go and produce raw materials; we should also produce finished products and create jobs.

Speaking further, the African richest man said, “One of the things we also need to know as Africans is that we produce raw materials and export them when you export raw materials and somebody now keeps importing things into your continent and dumping goods. what you are importing is poverty and exporting jobs. So, we have to change that narrative.”

“We just commissioned in February, and now we are producing jet fuel, diesel, and by next month, gasoline.

“What that would do is that we would be taking most of the African crude that is being produced and also be able to supply not only Nigeria because our capacity is too big for Nigeria, but it would also supply West Africa, Central Africa, and also South Africa.

“We have 650,000 barrels per day, 1 million metric tonnes of polypropylene, and 590,000 metric tonnes of carbon black; those are the raw materials—ink, dyes and co.

“We are expanding more. This is the first phase and we are going out to the next phase, which will start early next year.”(tribune)

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Business

Customs FX rate for import duties rises to N1,530/$

The foreign exchange (FX) rate for import duties has been adjusted by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to N1,530 per dollar.

This was adopted on Friday, May 17, representing a 6.13 percent increase compared to the N1,441.58 adopted on May 6.

The NCS always adopts FX rates recommended by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for import duties based on trading activities in the official FX market

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