Drivers sue Uber for transparency on app algorithms
Two British taxi drivers are suing Uber for more clarity on the algorithms the Uber app uses. They want to know what decisions the algorithms make about them, so that they can prove Uber is their employer. The lawsuit was filed in the Netherlands, because Uber's European headquarters are located in Amsterdam.
"They want to prove that Uber actually acts as an employer," Anton Ekker, the lawyer representing the two drivers, said to NOS. "To do that, they need everything Uber nows about them and what Uber's algorithms do with it."
The Uber App, and its algorithms, decide which trips are assigned to which driver. If the drivers can prove that these decisions aren't unbiased and automatic and therefore Uber is their employer, and not just a mediator between customers who want a ride and drivers who can perform that ride as the company always claims, they can make a case for more pay. Uber drivers are paid per trip. If they are actually employed by Uber, they could also be paid for the time in which they wait for trips, or time when they are on their way to the customer.
Uber drivers in the Netherlands also regularly complain that they are paid too little. The company insists that its prices are not too low, saying that drivers ear around 24 euros per hour, according to NOS. But they still have to cover their own costs, like fuel and wear and tear on their vehicles.
A British court previously ruled that Uber is an employer, not merely a mediator, in a case filed by four British Uber drivers. One of those four, James Farrar, is now assisting the other drivers in the Amsterdam case. "If Uber drivers can see what decisions the app makes about them, they can more easily prove in court that Uber is doing things an employer does," Farrar said to the broadcaster.
According to Farrar, he has evidence that Uber employees made a judgement on him and that this affected which rides he received afterwards. "For example, when I once refused a ride because it was too far away," he said. According to him, that makes Uber more than a neutral mediator for rides.
According to European privacy law, residents of EU countries can request the information that companies and organizations have on them, as well as details on what happens with that data. This means that companies must show them how their data is treated and whether decisions are made based on that data. According to Farrar, Uber drivers who request this data only receive confusing emails in return.