Uber and Ola Cabs in legal bid to curtail worker digital rights and supress union organised data trusts

December 16, 2020

Uber and Ola Cabs in legal bid to curtail worker digital rights and supress union organised data trusts

  • Uber and Ola in court in Amsterdam to respond to complaints made by 13 UK drivers
  • Uber and Ola have attacked the notion of worker accessing personal data for the purposes of developing a trade union data trust as an ‘abuse’ of GDPR rights
  • Uber and Ola both accused of maintaining secret driver work performance profiles the results of which impact work allocation & dismissal decisions



Uber and Ola Cabs will go to court in Amsterdam today in an effort to defeat a claim brought under the EU GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) by 13 UK drivers with the support of the App Drivers & Couriers Union together with Worker Info Exchange.


In separate proceedings, the drivers and couriers argue that Uber and Ola have denied them proper access to their personal data and to appropriate transparency of the algorithmic management decision making they have been subjected to. The drivers claim that both companies have become more opaque over time with management supervision increasingly hidden behind the digital curtain so as to avoid employment classification. Ola even calculates a‘fraud probability’ score for every driver but refuses to disclose it to drivers requesting it nor explain the basis for such calculations. Uber also refuses to come clean on driver performance profiling which drives discriminatory automated decisions relating to work allocation and even dismissals.


In particular the drivers claim:

  • Uber and Ola have deliberately frustrated access rights through the use of lengthy and convoluted request processes often resulting in little or no data being     provided in the end
  • In the case of Uber, the firm committed a data breach by providing the personal data of one claimant driver to another claimant driver
  • Ola maintains a ‘fraud probability score’ for every driver but refuses to disclose this to claimants or explain how it is calculated
  • Both firms maintain secret worker performance profiles but they have failed to disclose or explain them
  • Neither firms have provided legally required transparency into automated management decisions relating to work allocation, dismissals and other functions


In defence documents filed at the court Uber and Ola Cab claim they are defending the data protection rights of the customers and protecting the security of the platform. However, both firms insist in their driver and passenger terms that they are not even party to the contract supposedly agreed directly between the driver and the passenger. Uber and Ola have both roundly criticised Worker Info Exchange and the App Drivers &Couriers union to the court for their ambition to establish a data trust for the purposes of collective bargaining. Uber says this is an ‘abuse’ of GDPR rights whilst Ola says a data trust would threaten its intellectual property rights. Ola makes the further astonishing claim that a worker controlled data trust would even undermine the supposed competition between the drivers themselves.


James Farrar, Director of Worker Info Exchange said:


This landmark case will help level the playing field with platform companies by putting the power of data in the hands of gig workers and by exposing hidden algorithmic management controls. Uber and Ola’s extreme reaction against worker data trusts is telling but the aggregation of personal work data by trade unions for the purposes of building collective bargaining power is an inevitable next step in the evolution of the gig economy.



Yaseen Aslam, President of App Drivers & Couriers Union said:


Uber and Ola are fighting tooth and nail to maintain the status quo where drivers are kept disempowered and in the dark. It is bad enough that these firms have failed to obey employment law but now they are working harder than ever to hide their sins in a mountain of inaccessible data and a tangle of algorithmic controls .          



Anton Ekker, the lawyer representing the drivers &couriers said:


Uber’sopposition to transparency cannot arise from a lack of technical knowledge or financial resources. Uber uses artificial intelligence and algorithms in allits business processes and invests enormous amounts in research anddevelopment. Yet, in practice, drivers and couriers encounter major obstacleswhen making access requests. Again and again they do not receive the data theyhave asked for and to which they are entitled.