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Uber Building Tech to Tell When You Are Drunk

Photo: halbergman/Getty Images

It’s been awhile since we’ve had to update our big ol’ timeline of everything bad Uber has done since its inception. If this patent application ever becomes a reality, it might be time for a new addition. According to a report from The Guardian, the company applied for a patent on a technology that would use machine learning to “identify if someone is displaying uncharacteristic behaviour by looking at small changes in their behaviour as they use the Uber app.” Meaning Uber would, in theory, be able to tell if you were, say, drunk.

From The Guardian:

The patent includes a list of potential data Uber could use to determine an app user’s level of inebriation. This includes walking speed, unusual typos made while inputting a ride request, the angle at which a user holds the phone and whether the phone is swaying. While the patent application doesn’t spell out that the proposed tool would be used to identify if someone is drunk or on drugs — it refers instead to “‘predicting user state using machine learning” and “uncharacteristic user states” — that would be the most likely interpretation.

Possible uses for the system, according to the patent application, include pairing an intoxicated rider with a driver better equipped to deal with them, or by blocking an intoxicated rider from getting into a shared ride with anybody else. (Okay, that last one sounds nice. Who among us has not gotten stuck in the back of an Uber Pool with somebody you were just praying could hold their stomach together until you got to your destination?) But the flip side here — and again, this is just a patent application, so dose yourself with a healthy grain of salt — seems potentially pretty frightening. If you’re using the app, Uber, and your Uber drivers, already know exactly where you live. They know if you are riding alone. Do you really want them to know you are intoxicated, too?

Uber Building Tech to Tell When You Are Drunk