Can Uber drivers rate you

legal actionUber drivers want transparency about data and algorithms

Once again, Uber employees are taking the platform company to court. Several British drivers want to know what data it stores about them and how the algorithmic systems work, which they rate and assign trips to them, from the trip brokerage service. This was announced by the trade union "App Drivers & Couriers Union", in which the plaintiffs are organized, at the beginning of the week.

Using the apps of the US company Uber, people can easily book taxis, private chauffeurs and similar transport services. The drivers are mostly self-employed and use their own vehicles. Uber provides the platform for this and assigns customers to them. The criteria and patterns used to decide who gets which ride are only roughly known.

The platform company exercises extensive control over the drivers through the algorithms and automated decision-making processes for customer referrals, according to the lawsuit. Since this applies to many employees in the so-called gig economy, where platforms mediate between customers and (pseudo-) independent service providers, the case has more than just symbolic value.

Secret profiles and reports about drivers: inside

According to the plaintiffs, the driver app processes large amounts of personal driver data in a non-transparent manner. This gives the company a “very invasive picture” of them: Among other things, every interaction with the application, the whereabouts, driving behavior and communication with customers and company support are processed.

Internal documents would also show that Uber maintains secret profiles and reports about the drivers and provides them with keywords such as "inappropriate behavior" or "police" in the administration software.

All of this data presumably influences which customers and journeys employees are assigned by Uber's system. For the drivers, this depends, among other things, on their work planning and their income.

Improve the collective bargaining position

"Drivers must have full transparency about the algorithmic management and complete access to their data so that they can achieve a strong collective bargaining position," union representative Azeem Hanif said of the lawsuit.

The drivers argued that access to the data would enable them to better assess their own wages, compare themselves with other employees and jointly build bargaining power with the platform company.

The transparency of data and algorithms is also necessary to check whether the drivers are exposed to discrimination. 94 percent of private drivers in London would have a migrant background. In order to be able to understand whether they are being treated unfairly or badly rated because of their appearance, they would have to have access to the calculation of their driver: inside scores. They point out that their accounts will be closed if customer feedback falls below 4.4 out of 5.

Lawsuit based on the GDPR

The lawsuit is based on requests for information from Uber that the drivers have made on the basis of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Its Article 15 gives data subjects the right, among other things, to find out from companies and others whether they are processing data about them, what data they are and for what purposes they are being used.

Uber did not respond adequately to these inquiries and only released part of the necessary information, according to the lawsuit.

The drivers go to a district court in Amsterdam with their complaint. Uber, which had sales of more than $ 11 billion in 2018, has its European headquarters in the Dutch capital.

About the author


Ingo is a communication scientist and has been an editor at since 2016. He writes and speaks about data politics, surveillance capitalism and the digital structural change of the public. Ingo gives workshops for young and older people in digital self-defense and teaches at universities on the political economy of digital media. He also moderates events and discussions, for example at the re: publica or at the Internet Political Evening in Berlin. Ingo is a member of the Digital Society Association and the EKD Chamber of Social Ethics and advises church organizations on digital transformation. Contact: Ingo is by mail to ingo | point | dachwitz | ett | (PGP key) available and on Twitter as @roofjoke.
Published 07/23/2020 at 4:09 PM