UK drivers begin legal action against Uber over failure to respect their digital rights under the GD

In a landmark test of data rights at work under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), introduced in the European Union last year, four current and former Uber drivers are taking legal action against the ride-hailing app. The drivers claim that Uber is failing to honour its obligations under the GDPR to share the personal information it has about its drivers. This is the first legal action of its kind testing the right of those who work in the gig economy to have access to the digital information held about them. Four drivers from London, Nottingham and Glasgow claim Uber has breached their rights by failing to disclose personal data the firm holds on them including:

  • Duration of time logged on to the platform (this would enable calculation of potential monies owed to the drivers in holiday pay and minimum wage back pay claims)

  • GPS data (this would enable drivers to calculate total operating costs including revenue and nonrevenue earning time and distance)

  • Performance data including suspensions from the platform (this would enable drivers to understand how their performance was monitored and managed over time)

  • Profiling information and details on how such data is processed, for example in automated dispatch decision making (this would enable drivers to understand how they were profiled by the firm and the impact this may have had on the quality, quantity and value of work offered over time)

  • Trip ratings (drivers are dismissed when their rating dips below 4.4 so the ability to legitimately appeal unfair ratings on a trip by trip basis can be crucial to maintaining employment)

In a pre-action protocol letter sent to Uber yesterday, the drivers claim the firm is in breach of Article 15 of the GDPR which guarantees them the right to: ‘obtain from the controller confirmation as to whether or not personal data concerning him or her are being processed, and, where that is the case, access to the personal data.’ The claim is made against various Uber operating entities in the UK, Netherlands and Ireland. The four drivers have asked Uber to disclose to them their data by making requests as far back as July 2018, but they have been met with delayed, inconsistent, incomplete, piece meal and mostly unintelligible disclosures before finally the firm ceased correspondence. The legal action is backed by Worker Info Exchange, a start-up organisation campaigning for data access and digital fairness at work. The goal of the organisation is to help information workers in the gig economy and beyond to access, analyse and act on insights gained from their personal data collected and processed at work. The drivers are being represented by Ravi Naik of ITN Solicitors in London. Mr. Naik is the Law Society’s Human Rights Lawyer of the Year and leads a ground-breaking practice at the forefront of data rights and technology. Mr Naik represents claimants in a number of high-profile data rights cases, including cases against Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and the AdTech industry. James Farrar, Founder and Director of Worker Information Exchange and co lead claimant in the ongoing worker rights case against Uber said: “For too long Uber has used its technology to abuse its power over drivers and deny them even the most basic of workplace rights. It collects vast quantities of personal data from its drivers and uses algorithms to surveill, manage, nudge, penalise, reward and even fire workers from behind the digital curtain. Uber’s failure to abide by the GDPR cannot be allowed to go unchecked. Government and regulatory authorities must take decisive action so that all businesses, in their race to digitise, understand that personal data rights must be respected at work.” Ravi Naik of ITN Solicitors said: “The right to access to personal data is a fundamental principle of data protection. Our clients have made numerous requests for their data from Uber. On any consideration, those requests have not been satisfactorily complied with. It is regrettable that our clients have had to seek legal advice to assert their rights, rather than Uber simply complying with the law. How they now respond will be a stress-test of Uber’s commitment to data protection.” Yaseen Aslam, co-lead claimant in the ongoing worker rights case against Uber said: “Uber told me I’d be my own boss, referred to me as a ‘partner’ and claimed their algorithm would empower drivers but instead they used their technology to exploit us all. It’s upsetting that Uber have not released to me all my data which they still use to power their algorithm. This is further proof that gig economy employers like Uber manipulate our data behind the curtain to make huge profits for themselves while placing us at a financial disadvantage.” Nottingham - Azeem Hanif said: “Under the law I am entitled to all the personal data Uber holds on me. They cannot be allowed to hide it from me in the way they have, otherwise why have a regulator and the GDPR? Uber, once again, is flexing its corporate muscles and is making a mockery of the law.” Glasgow - David Dunn said: “Uber has never given drivers the essential information they need to do their job successfully on the Uber platform as the truly independent, self-employed sole traders Uber insists they are. And now, even when I invoked my rights under the GDPR to demand my personal data, they are still not prepared to provide me with my own work data voluntarily.” 

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