Uber and Lyft have officially responded to allegations made earlier this year, when a study pointed out that some ride-hailing passengers were being discriminated against.
According to that study, African-American riders faced longer wait times and more cancellations, while women experienced longer rides.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., raised the issue with Uber and Lyft, sending a letter on Nov. 2 urging the companies to look into the matter.
The senator's office has now published Uber and Lyft's responses and it seems that both companies are defending their practices.
Privacy Policies And Discrimination
Franken urged Uber and Lyft to consider altering their privacy policies to withhold riders' photos and names from the requests that reach drivers. The study had revealed that these bits of information contributed to the driver's ability to discriminate and "black-sounding names" got a different treatment, for instance.
While the senator suggested that withholding the passengers' names and photos could be a solution to avoid the driver's discrimination, both Uber and Lyft think that it wouldn't be such a good idea.
Uber Responds To Discrimination Allegations
Uber responded to Franken's letter on Nov. 30, defending its practice to offer the passenger's name and photo with the requests. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick argued that removing names from the equation could be confusing.
Tackling Franken's suggestion to use codes instead of names, Kalanick said that riders would likely not use codes consistently and it could lead to confusion such as taking the wrong vehicle or riding with someone falsely posing as an Uber driver.
Moreover, Uber clarified that before accepting a ride request, a driver only sees the customer's star rating, current location, the type of service they want, and whether dynamic pricing applies. The driver sees the rider's first name only after accepting the request and never sees the rider's full name. At the same time, Uber does not require riders to link a photo to their account and even if they choose to do so, the drivers never see the photo.
Lyft Responds To Discrimination Allegations
Lyft, meanwhile, offered a similar response on Dec. 16. The company said that its drivers get the name of their riders and the riders get the name of their driver as part of a "digital trust profile" aiming to ensure that there is no confusion. The information exchanged helps ensure that riders get in the right car and drivers pick up the right passenger.
Nevertheless, Lyft did pledge to conduct a more rigorous review of its ride cancellations, focusing on the quality of service and the rate of cancellations among minority census tracts. Uber, for its part, said it would meet with the researchers who conducted the study to discuss the findings and conduct experiments designed to protect riders against discrimination.