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Uber and Ola ordered to be more transparent over algorithmic decisions

An Amsterdam court has ordered Uber and Ola to be more transparent about the data they use as the basis for decisions on suspensions, wage penalties and work allocation, in a ruling that breaks new ground on the rights of workers subject to algorithmic management.

James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, who won a landmark victory against Uber in the UK’s Supreme Court last month, led the action by a group of UK drivers and a Portuguese driver, who brought three separate cases against the ride-hailing companies seeking fuller access to their personal data.

In a mixed ruling, the Amsterdam District Court said Uber should give two drivers accused of fraudulent activity access to the data it had used as a basis for blocking them from the app. It also said Uber should give drivers access to anonymised individual ratings on their performance, rather than providing a rolling average of the rating on many trips.

But the court rejected drivers’ claims that Uber had suspended their accounts without meaningful human oversight. It did not award any compensation nor require Uber to give fuller information on how prices were calculated or notes added to drivers’ profiles, saying the claimants had failed to specify what data were missing.

Uber said: “This is a crucial decision. The court has confirmed Uber’s dispatch system does not equate to automated decision-making, and that we provided drivers with the data they are entitled to. The court also confirmed that Uber’s processes have meaningful human involvement.”

Farrar, a former Uber driver who has since set up the drivers’ union Worker Info Exchange, said: “This is a hugely important first step . . . We’re going to have to do an awful lot more.”

Winning access to data was crucial, he said, because as platforms’ contractual arrangements with workers came under greater scrutiny, they were shifting towards more opaque automated management systems. Greater transparency would not only help drivers contest unfair decisions against them but would also help to ascertain their average hourly earnings after costs.

Ruling on a separate case against Ola Cabs, the court found that the car-booking app had used an entirely automated system to make deductions from one driver’s earnings — a finding that attracts greater legal protection.

Anton Ekker, the lawyer representing the drivers, said that to his knowledge, it was the first time a court had found that workers were subject to automated decision-making as defined in Article 22 of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation — thus giving them the right to demand human intervention, express their point of view and appeal against the decision.

The court said Ola should give drivers access to anonymised ratings on their performance, to personal data used to create their “fraud probability score” and to data used to create an earnings profile that influences work allocation.

Ola did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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