Uber drivers take legal action to fight suspected discrimination

Uber logo on a white and red background

Two UK-based Uber drivers, with the help of the App Drivers & Couriers Union, have launched a legal challenge against Uber to find out exactly how the platform’s algorithm allocates work. The union said that transparency was needed to find out whether Uber is discriminating against drivers or treating them unequally in any way. According to The Guardian, the move will also allow the union to more easily organise workers to fight for better work terms and pay, which is currently impossible.

The case against the firm is being brought today at a district court in Amsterdam, the same location that the firm’s European branch resides. The claim being made against Uber is that the firm tags drivers for things like inappropriate behaviour, incidents with the police, late arrivals and missed ETAs, and unprofessionalism. The drivers are complaining that they cannot see this data nor understand how it affects them due to the algorithm’s opaqueness. With this legal challenge, they hope to find out how the processing affects them and their driver score.

Anton Ekker, a privacy lawyer leading the case, 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.

“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 a lot of control but the people who are subject to it are often no longer aware of it.”

The two drivers, Azeem Hanif and Alfie Wellcoat, claim that they have asked Uber to give them their detailed driver profiles but that the firm failed to do so. The two drivers claim that this is a breach of the general data protection regulation (GDPR). The consequences of this action could be significant as it could open up the possibility of effective unionisation for drivers despite their self-employed status.

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