For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data is Power

For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data is Power

Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

Key findings

This year, a consortium of cities banded together to launch an open-source data project called Mobility Data Solutions (MDS), which allows cities to collect their own real-time info on scooter and dockless bike trips. Uber, Lyft, and Bird are supporting a bill to block it, citing fears that the data would not be stored securely. Many transportation experts believe those privacy concerns are valid; others think the companies are acting in their own interest, which is to keep cities in the dark.

Uber desires the production of data for the employer. Idling, re-routing, and cancelling rides may not make drivers any money under the current system, but it gives Uber valuable info on what routes and times of day drivers prefer.

"Platform companies give platform workers views of their own data that are designed to incentivize and spur specific behavior," said Witt. They’ll tell drivers how many more rides they’ll have to complete before earning a bonus, for example. These limited disclosures encourage them to stay on the platform longer, and direct them “to work in ways that are inherently isolating and that function to undermine anything approaching collective (whether that action involves a collective appeal for higher wages, or safer working conditions)," as Attoh, Cullen, and Wells write. In different hands, data could also break down those silos.

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