Two private hire drivers launch legal action against Ola alleging data protection violations

Two drivers from London, backed by their union, have today launched legal action against Ola in the Netherlands alleging violations in data protection law under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

They accuse the India-based ride-hailing giant of denying their right of access to their personal data held on the platform and for failing to provide adequate transparency into how they are performance managed by algorithm.

The drivers are being supported by the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU), the International Alliance of App-based Transport Workers (IAATW) and Worker Info Exchange.

Copies of the complaint filed can be found here in English and Dutch.

Whilst it is claimed that Ola has provided the drivers some access to data after they made subject access requests, the drivers say there remains huge gaps in what has been provided.

One example given by the drivers includes being denied access to date stamped GPS data which they say significantly reduces the ability of drivers to carry out meaningful performance analysis of their own.

Ola have also blocked access to ratings data at the trip level which eliminates the possibility to challenge unfair or discriminatory ratings. It is claimed that this impacts the quality and quantity of work offered on the platform and can result in dismissals.

The complaint is also critical of Ola’s data protection policy, suggesting a high degree of driver surveillance and performance management, despite offering very little in the way of drivers' basic worker rights. The drivers say Ola has failed to provide adequate transparency into the logic of processing of personal data by algorithms which allocate work to drivers.

The drivers will now ask the district court in Amsterdam to make an order that Ola immediately comply with data protection law and to be fined €2,000 for each day it remains outside of compliance with such a court order. The action has been taken in the Netherlands because Ola Netherlands BV, the corporate entity that controls the platform and driver data, is based in Amsterdam.

The ADCU is working with the nonprofit Worker Info Exchange to establish a data trust for drivers for the purposes of collective bargaining. The drivers will ask the court to order Ola to respect their right to port personal data directly from Ola to their union’s fledgling data trust.

 The legal action is also supported by the International Alliance of App-based Transport (IAATW) workers which represents Ola drivers in India through Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh (MRRKS) based in Mumbai.  

The drivers will be represented in the Netherlands by their attorney Anton Ekker.


James Farrar, Director of Worker Info Exchange, said: “Ola drivers endure intensive surveillance at work yet are denied access to their own personal data on the platform and to basic transparency as to how they are performance managed by algorithm. Workers in the so-called gig economy face a bleak and dystopian future unless firms like Ola are forced to obey the law and respect the digital rights of its workforce.”

Yaseen Aslam, President of ADCU, said: “Ola could choose to use its technology for good to ensure drivers are well paid, protected and treated with dignity at work. Instead Ola has taken advantage of its position of platform power to exploit and impoverish its workforce. It’s time for drivers to take back control and build collective power. The first step is to demand access to their own data at work.“

Anton Ekker of Ekker Advocatuur said: “With Ola based in the Netherlands as operator of the Ola platform, the Dutch courts now have an important role to play in ensuring Ola’s compliance with the GDPR. This is a landmark case in the gig economy with workers asserting their digital rights for the purposes of advancing their worker rights.”

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