“Our local trust and safety team will decide whether to roll out this feature locally, in line with government guidance, at that point,” the spokeswoman said.
Uber’s rivals Didi and Ola have also launched similar technology, requiring mask selfies from drivers but have no plans to introduce the check for passengers at this stage.
However, Professor Brian Lovell, research director of the security and surveillance research group at The University of Queensland said masks pose a challenge to the effective use of facial recognition technology.
Professor Lovell said while the area below the nose, which is typically covered by a mask, “doesn’t contribute much to face identity”, the technology can struggle to detect a face at all when a mask is worn.
Customers of tech giant Apple have also struggled to unlock their phones and pay for items using Apple’s FaceID software while wearing a mask. Apple updated its operating system earlier this year to speed up access to the passcode field on devices which use FaceID when a device fails to unlock.
The company declined to comment on whether it is working to enable its facial recognition technology to operate while users wear a mask.
Professor Lovell said facial recognition technology is likely to develop further over the next six months.
“Our systems work quite well and we are applying those because we’ve designed them to work on masks and that will improve as we put more effort in,” he said. “There hadn’t been a good use case until recently.”
Meanwhile, facial recognition technology is also being used at convenience chain 7-Eleven to ensure employee compliance. However, 7-Eleven Australia chief executive Angus McKay said the technology was not being used to check for masks.
“When you are using masks facial recognition does not work,” he said.
“When we put facial technology in four years ago it was all around employees and we use it to match an employee’s face to their biometric Bundy clock to make sure the faces are in the store for those hours.”
Mr McKay added the use of facial recognition technology was limited to staff, with consumers monitored using closed circuit television (CCTV) .
Signs on the doors of 7-Eleven stores in Victoria ask customers to “please lower your face coverings in order for CCTV to be able to view your image prior to entering the store.”
“We are not using facial recognition from a customer recognition and market targeting aspect and I don’t know whether we will go there,” he said. “Facial recognition like all technology can be used for good or evil and we want to stay on the right side.”
Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne