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New GIG-ECONOMY report details harm caused by app platform algorithms

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Data Driven Exploitation in the Gig Economy, a new report published by Worker Info Exchange, evidences the harms caused by gig platforms’ algorithmic workforce management systems.

The report details a rapidly expanding global gig economy has led to an explosive growth in the workforce. Workers are increasingly profiled and managed by opaque algorithmic systems, which determine how work will be allocated, to whom, how often, for what amount, and crucially, whether someone will be subjected to disciplinary action, including dismissals.

Complex data systems flag every behaviour that might indicate unusual activity, and when they do, the burden is placed on the workers to prove they have done nothing wrong.

Unaware of what measures, metrics, or rules they are evaluated against, workers try to piece together the evidence of their innocence to contest disciplinary decisions.

Over the past year, Worker Info Exchange has made over 500 subject access requests on behalf of workers, to counter allegations and build collective power by addressing the informational asymmetry in the gig economy.

While the recently published proposed EU directive on platform work aims to give workers far greater legal protection from algorithmic harms, the UK Government is accused of heading in the other direction. Driver representatives say the recent proposals from the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, if implemented, will hobble access and transparency rights while taking away current protections from automated decision making.

To coincide with the report, Worker Info Exchange are also launching a joint campaign with Privacy International and The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) to challenge the exploitative practices of the gig economy.

As part of the campaign, a series of video interviews with Uber drivers, revealing their experiences with suspensions and dismissals arising from interactions with facial recognition technology, fraud detection systems, as well as unaccountable intelligence sharing with law enforcement will be released.

Cansu Safak, Lead Report Author at Worker Info Exchange, said: “The many worker cases we document in this report make it undeniably clear that the harms of algorithmic management are real and affect the most vulnerable. Gig platforms are collecting an unprecedented amount of data from workers through invasive surveillance technologies. Every day, companies make allegations of ‘algorithmic wrongdoing’ which they do not offer any evidence for. They block and frustrate workers’ efforts to obtain their personal data when they try to defend themselves. This is how gig platforms maintain exploitative power.”

James Farrar, Director of Worker Info Exchange, said: “As gig economy platforms mature and regulatory pressure builds, we are seeing employers roll out intensive surveillance and opaque automated management decision making systems to exercise ever more hidden forms of control over workers. This report shows how the latest wave of employment misclassification tactics involves employers telling workers they are truly independent in their jobs while at the same time management control is wielded as forcefully as ever but from behind the digital curtain.”


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