WIE and ADCU challenge Uber and Ola on data access and automated decision-making

  • ADCU and Worker Info Exchange challenge Uber and Ola Cabs on behalf of 11 UK and Portugal based drivers for data access and algorithmic transparency at the Amsterdam Court of Appeal.

  • Drivers are appealing for data access, algorithmic transparency and protection from automated decision-making.

  • Case is based on GDPR rights but the UK government is planning to remove data access rights and rights of protection from automated decision-making.

Picture taken of ADCU members standing before the Amsterdam Court of Appeal.

Today Worker Info Exchange and the ADCU are back in court in Amsterdam to appeal some important points in an earlier ruling at the Amsterdam District Court in 2020. The proceedings incorporate two separate actions against Uber and one against Ola Cabs as follows. Uber – Data access and portability

  • We will argue that the purpose of data portability is not only to prevent marketing ‘lock in’, but also for workers to have the right to transfer their data to a worker data trust such as Worker Info Exchange.

  • Drivers remain caught in the chicken and egg problem of not being provided full access to data unless they can closely specify the data they want, because they do not know what personal data Uber is processing and why.

  • The drivers are also appealing to be granted access to internal notes, tags and profiles maintained by Uber management about them. Worker Info Exchange has discovered evidence that Uber management staff maintained driver profiles and attached performance related tags such as ‘negative attitude’ to these profiles. Uber has not provided access to this data, nor have they explained how such tags are processed.

  • While the lower court provided some extra transparency into star ratings assigned by passengers, the drivers are asking the court to provide full transparency to the individual rating provided for each trip. Currently, Uber only allows drivers to see a rolling 500 trip rating average.

  • The drivers are also demanding transparency as to how Uber calculates and assigns upfront pricing for each trip. For each trip a passenger is guaranteed a fixed price regardless of how long the trip might take or if a traffic diversion becomes necessary. This means that the risk is placed on the driver if the time and distance is greater than anticipated by Uber’s algorithms. The drivers are therefore demanding access to this data to satisfy themselves that the upfront calculations assigned by Uber are reasonable and fair.

  • The drivers are also appealing that Uber still has not adequately explained what automated decision-making they are subjected to, particularly in the areas of work allocation, performance management and dismissals.

Uber – Automated dismissals

  • Three UK drivers and one Portuguese driver are appealing to the court that Uber’s decision to dismiss due to false allegations of fraudulent activity was indeed automated and lacked meaningful human intervention.

Ola Cabs – Data access and transparency

Three UK drivers are similarly appealing a lower court ruling on the grounds that they have not been provided adequate transparency.

  • The drivers have not been provided a full account of trip and transaction data so that they may calculate and check fare calculations over time.

  • The drivers will argue that Ola’s failure to provide GPS data interferes with their ability to calculate and check time and distance fare calculations and to understand how and when they are tracked at work. The drivers will argue that access to this data does not unduly interfere with passenger privacy.

  • Similar to the Uber drivers, the appellants will argue that they have not been provided with adequate transparency into the ratings assigned to them by customers on a trip by trip basis.

  • The drivers will argue that they have not been provided with detailed device event data collected by Ola from the driver’s mobile devices. This information can be critical in cases where drivers are unfairly accused of fraudulent activity such as account sharing. The device data provides a definitive account of what exactly happened with the device in the driver’s possession including what commands the driver entered into the app.

  • Similar to the Uber drivers, the appellants argue that Ola has not provided adequate transparency into the automated decision-making they may be subjected to, particularly in relation to work allocation, performance management and dismissals. Ola admits to maintaining driver profiles which are used in work allocation decisions. These profiles include fraud probability scoring and earnings history. However, Ola has not explained clearly how such profiles are used and the impact they may have. Similarly, Ola operates a comprehensive security and surveillance system known as ‘Guardian’ but has provided no transparency into how driver data is processed by this system and what automated decisions are taken.

James Farrar, Director of Worker Info Exchange said:

Gig economy workers are facing unprecedented levels of surveillance and algorithmic control at work as companies like Uber and Ola Cabs increasingly rely on technology to conceal behind a digital curtain the true employment relationship. Even when workers try to build collective power by transferring their data to a data trust like Worker Info Exchange their efforts are frustrated by these platform companies. I am also concerned about gig employers using very sensitive surveillance and anti-fraud detection systems against a marginalised workforce without proper due process at the companies and where the workers are denied. If the UK government proceeds with planned UK GDPR reforms, gig workers will be more exposed to the risk of exploitation than ever before.

Yaseen Aslam, President of ADCU said:

Once again, low paid workers are forced to conduct international litigation against very powerful global platforms just to access the most basic of digital rights at work. It is shameful that companies like Uber and Ola are using algorithms to exploit people illegally at work with impunity. ADCU is committed to fighting for all driver rights – digital and employment.

Anton Ekker, the lawyer representing the appellants said:

This is an important case which tests the potency of GDPR rights for workers especially in the area of access and transparency rights as well as the right to protection from automated decision making including worker profiling.

BACKGROUND:

  1. DCMS Consultation on Proposals: Data: A new direction. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1022315/Data_Reform_Consultation_Document__Accessible_.pdf

  2. Managed by Bots: Data Driven Exploitation in the Gig Economy: https://5b88ae42-7f11-4060-85ff-4724bbfed648.usrfiles.com/ugd/5b88ae_8d720d54443543e2a928267d354acd90.pdf