Uber is now active in more than 70 countries and is therefore is well positioned to play a role in the fight to stop human trafficking practices across the globe. In March 2016, Uber became the first ride-sharing company to sign a pledge issued by the group ECPAT (Ending Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes). The pledge specifies that the business will adopt business principles that will help prevent human trafficking.
The company has since partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the McCain Institute. This partnership aims to develop education materials that help drivers identify signs of human trafficking. The education materials will also teach Uber drivers what steps to take (and not take) if they suspect a passenger is the victim of or involved in trafficking activity.
At the end of last year an Uber driver reportedly helped save a minor from a human trafficking ring. NBC News reports reported that a Sacramento Uber driver called police when he suspected that one of the passengers in his vehicle was in danger. He had picked up two adult women and a teen and proceeded to take them to a hotel. During the ride, he overheard that the women would be delivering the teen to a man named ‘John’ in exchange for money.
Although, Uber has internationally declared its stand against human trafficking there are risks involved for people using the company’s services. Headlines of drivers allegedly assaulting and assaulting female passengers across the globe continues to cast a pall over Uber’s reputation. In 2015, Uber promised to hire 1 million female drivers by 2020. The plan was announced as a partnership with the United Nations’ UN Women group. The service has been criticized for not doing enough to vet its drivers before hiring them and additionally not being responsive to complaints from female passengers.
In a bid to improve safety for Uber passengers, Uber has introduced a new safety feature for SA. The company introduced Real-Time ID check earlier this year. The Real-time ID check assures riders that when they are picked up, the right person is behind the wheel. The function is also meant to protect driver-partners from fraud, theft and risks to their account being compromised. Questions of safety came under the spotlight in July last year when a woman was kidnapped and raped after getting into what she thought was an Uber taxi in Fourways, Gauteng (NEWS24).
Uber also released a list of safety guidelines that the company urges passengers to practise:
Know your driver: check the driver’s name, photo, vehicle type and license plate number against those in the app.
Track the trip: From the minute a ride is requested, the rider is able to track the vehicle on the app as it makes its way to pick them up. In addition to ensuring one gets into the correct vehicle, the GPS features allow riders to know exactly where they are headed and that they’re on the right track.
Share your ETA with friends/family: This is easily done via the app and they don’t need to download the Uber app themselves. Friends or family will receive a link where they can see in real time, the name and photo of the driver-partner, their vehicle, and where are on the map the rider is, until they’ve arrived at their destination.
Charge your phone: Having a charged phone ensures you can see your driver’s details and track your trip while on the ride.
Don’t unnecessarily share your personal details: Uber has implemented an anonymous contact system to ensure riders and driver-partners don’t need to share their personal information. Riders and drivers can contact each other at any time through the app.
Feedback: Always provide detailed feedback after your trip to keep Uber updated.