Password better than selfie for Grab driver safety, says consumer group

PETALING JAYA: A consumer group has urged the transport ministry and ride-hailing service Grab to consider better ways to protect the safety of drivers, rather than require passengers to submit a “selfie” portrait photograph to verify their identity.

Malaysian Public Transport Users Association (4PAM) president Ajit Johl said he did not see how the drivers could be protected as the drivers would not be provided access to the photographs.

Grab has informed passengers that they must submit a selfie photo by July 12 to verify their identity for future rides and to assist authorities when required. However, these photos will not be shared with drivers and merchants.

The measure comes weeks after the murder of a Grab driver, Mohd Hanafiee Jaffar, in Tuaran, Sabah. Grab’s facial recognition technology was reported to have helped the police in arresting the suspects.

Ajit said he is all for verification of passengers’ identity, but felt that other methods, such as one-time passwords (OTP) and real-time surveillance, were better alternatives, with the latter being a strong deterrent to any crime against drivers or passengers.

“An OTP for ride-hailing, similar to what we have with online banking will be better. In this case, once a driver has accepted a ride, a passenger receives an OTP and has to provide this to the driver. If it doesn’t match then, that’s a red flag for the driver.

“I think an OTP would be better because mobile phone numbers are already registered with the authorities and Grab has the passengers’ details, and this is a better deterrent because the passenger must know that the authorities and Grab know who they are.”

Ajit said selfies would need to be updated if passengers’ looks changed over time, such as when they changed their hairstyles, or grew facial hair.

Grab’s selfie requirement has led to a debate among social media users, with some voicing concerns that it would violate a passenger’s privacy.

Foong Cheng Leong, a lawyer, says the requirement does not run afoul of the Personal Data Protection Act 2010 as it involved obtaining the user’s consent.

“The use of Grab or any ride-hailing service is optional. Those who do not wish to submit their picture may opt not to use the service.”

Universiti Sains Malaysia criminologist P Sundramoorthy said he feels drivers should get to see a picture of their passengers to verify their identities when picking them up.

“The users get to see a driver’s picture. If they see that a driver is a different person from that in their picture, they would surely cancel the ride. So it should be the same for drivers.”

He acknowledged that there may be those who abuse the pictures, but that passengers should be reasonable as the bigger issue was safety.

“Actually, when you are out in public, you’re very likely to be recorded as there are CCTVs everywhere.

“When you do an internet search of yourself, you may already find your picture online from social media pages and so on.”

He also said that ride-sharing services should only accept cashless payments, and that this would lessen the temptation to rob drivers and passengers.

“The government should also not allow any ride-sharing or public transport vehicles from tinting their windows too dark, this way both drivers and passengers are aware that others can see them.”