Over in the UK, four Uber drivers have repeatedly asked for an explanation of how their algorithm works. Uber said no, and now it might be a matter for the court.
If you want to ignore the whole Brexit thing, the topic swirling around Europe this week is the magnificent question of data and who owns it. Yesterday, the EU enshrined Article 13, the internet law that will crack down on the illegal sharing of copyright material, but will certainly not ban memes, but is so elastic it will allow the man to ban memes, just to be safe.
Today, the Uber drivers of Britain are railing against the electric fence, begging for their own, wondering what their employers have on them. According to standing European laws, if a company collects one’s data, that person has a right to access said data. Now, a handful of drivers want them to hand it over, and their employers are playing hardball.
According to Fast Comany, “For the last two years, these drivers individually requested the company provide them with a comprehensive dossier of all the data it collected about them. Instead, writes the Economist, Uber gave them “a limited dataset containing the origin and destination points of the drivers’ trips and some location data.” The drivers reportedly asked for an explanation for the abridged data disclosure. According to the report, Uber says it did provide them with an explanation but wouldn’t divulge further details.”
British lawyer Ravi Naik is now involved, who is a rather decent coup, as he is one of the minds looking to chisel our personal data out of the greedy hands of Cambridge Analytica. Per Fast Company, “Naik reportedly sent a letter to Uber asking for more robust data disclosure; if the company once again refuses, he says he’ll appeal to a higher European court.”
If the data sees the light of day, the drivers will see something that Uber doesn’t want them to. The ride-sharing empire is legendarily secretive about how its algorithms work. The cost to these drivers is certainly livelihood or death, as the app decides which driver picks up a passenger, as well as calculates what their payout will be. Per Fast Company, “…the drivers are asking for the data collected about the times they log on and off the app, the location information the app gathered, the ratings they receive from passengers, as well as the other inputs the company uses that power its software-controlled dispatch system. Until now, Uber has never disclosed such specific information.”
Understanding all of what makes Uber, uber, could make things extremely different. To that end, Uber has officially said this:
Our privacy team works hard to provide as much information as we can including explanations when we can’t provide certain data such as when the data doesn’t exist or disclosing it would infringe on the rights of another person under GDPR. Under the law, UK citizens also have the right to escalate their concerns by contacting Uber’s Data Protection Officer or the ICO for additional review.