Uber plays ‘Spot the Drunk’
Uber has applied for a patent for technology that identifies inebriated customers. They say that it would be used to allow drivers to avoid picking up drunk customers that are more likely to be rowdy, messy, or unpleasant.
The patent application describes a system that identifies “uncharacteristic user activity”, including typing accuracy and screen tilt.
Given Uber’s chequered history with looking after user data (of both drivers and customers), critics have been quick to point out that it may not be in customers’ best interests to have yet more of their data held by the company.
Other critics have pointed out the safety aspects: if the system can be used to dodge drunk customers, it can also be used to identify potentially vulnerable ones. Uber has been fighting a PR battle for years over instances of sexual harassment and rape by its drivers against customers. Critics are concerned that this technology may make it easier for a would-be rapist driver to target those least able to fight back.
Uber’s response is that it files many patent applications, “but not all of them actually become products or features”.
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