Grab selfie rule: Say cheese?

I use Grab on a regular basis, perhaps three or four times a week. Like many others, I am interested in seeing what will happen over the next little while as Grab – and commuters – adjust to the requirement for all drivers to have a public service vehicle licence.

But while passengers’ main concern today may be how long they’ll have to wait to book a ride, how much it will cost, what will happen if it rains and whether they’ll be able to find a driver in the first place, I am more preoccupied with another, albeit less burning, question.

How much good will it do, really, to require all passengers to submit a selfie before they can use the app?

According to Grab, the “selfie rule” is for identity verification and safety purposes. The selfies submitted by riders may be used to assist the authorities when required but will not be shared with drivers or Grab merchants. So it looks as though all the pictures sent in by passengers will be stored in a virtual vault until such time when they come under scrutiny by the powers that be.

Presumably, the biggest likelihood of the authorities having to go over your selfie with a magnifying glass will occur if a crime of some sort is committed. News reports have been quick to note how facial recognition technology helped the police track down suspects in a recent case involving the robbery/murder of a Grab driver in Sabah. Last year, another Grab driver was also found strangled in Kuala Lumpur.

No doubt, having pictures of riders would also make things safer for passengers in the event that something untoward happens to them as well. But there is a limit to how much such photos can help.

Not everyone who calls for a Grab ride is the actual passenger. Many people book rides for others who do not have a phone, or who aren’t tech-savvy. My dad doesn’t carry a phone, so my mum books rides for him whenever he needs one. I, too, have booked rides for other people and I know that many of my friends have done the same.

Granted, the selfie rule will still ensure some sort of connection with the individual involved should anything occur. If I call a ride for a friend and something happens during the trip, the authorities can still investigate through me since it’s my picture in the system. But again, how much good would it do in this scenario, knowing what I look like?

When you install the Grab app on your phone, it links to your phone number. In order to get a SIM card, you have to register with your IC or some other form of official identification like your passport. So if the authorities find themselves in a situation where they need to do some digging around, everything they need is right there.

Later this evening, I’m going to have to call for a Grab ride to get somewhere for an appointment. Hopefully, it won’t be raining, I won’t have to wait too long and the fare won’t wipe out my life savings. I may have to take a selfie, but at least the authorities will be able to find me if I run amok.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.