Uber drivers seek disclosure of company algorithm in Dutch case

Uber drivers have launched a legal case in the Netherlands to force the release of the computer algorithms used to manage their work in a test case that could lead to greater transparency for millions of gig economy workers.

The case has been brought by UK-based App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) at the district court in Amsterdam, where Uber’s headquarters are located.

Unions argue that transparency is essential in determining whether the company is discriminating between drivers.

Today the firm began its UK Supreme Court challenge against a landmark decision that former Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrer, ADCU founders, should have been classified as workers rather than self-employed contractors and so should have been entitled to the minimum wage and holidays.

Anton Ekker, the lawyer leading the case in Amsterdam, said: “This is about the distribution of power. It’s about Uber exerting control through data and automated decision-making and how it is blocking access to that.”

He added: “The app decides millions of times a day who is going to get what ride – who gets the nice rides; who gets the short rides. But this is not just about Uber. The problem is everywhere. Algorithms and data give control but the people who are subject to it are often no longer aware of it.”

The claim states that Uber tags drivers’ profiles with, for example, “inappropriate behaviour” or “police tag”. Reports may relate to “professionalism – cancelled on rider, inappropriate behaviour, attitude”.

Drivers complaint that they are not being provided with the data or how its use affects them.

“Uber collects large amounts of data that provide a penetrating picture of, among other things, the use of the Uber driver app, the location and driving behaviour of the driver, communication with customers and the Uber support department,” the claim states.

An Uber spokesman said: “Our privacy team works hard to provide any requested personal data that individuals are entitled to. We will give explanations when we cannot provide certain data, such as when it doesn’t exist or disclosing it would infringe on the rights of another person under GDPR. Under the law, individuals have the right to escalate their concerns by contacting Uber’s data protection officer or their national data protection authority for additional review.”

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