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How gig workers can make use of data

On the Gig Economy Project this week we have been taking a deep dive into the question of gig workers' data. Specifically, we've been looking at the possibility for gig workers and unions to access their data and make use of it to defend their interests, whether that be through collective bargaining negotiations, court cases or political action. 

PersonalData.Io, a Swiss NGO, has been kind enough to talk us through their impressive work with Guillaume, an Uber driver from 2017 to May 2022 in Geneva, who has been trying to access and understand his data. What makes this particularly interesting is that Guillaume and other current and ex drivers in Geneva are currently locked in a battle with Uber over how much back-dated pay they are owed, after a court found earlier this year that they are employees. This is exactly the sort of dispute that accurate and legible data could help solve. 

You can read the full article here as well as our interview with Jessica Pidoux, director of PersonalData.Io, here (available as a podcast or in text form).

What we have discovered is that while workers do in theory have GDPR rights in the EU which allow them to access their data, in practise it is "almost impossible", in the words of PersonalData.Io, for a worker to make productive use of this right on their own. Why? As Uber's response to Guillaume's Subject Access Request illustrates, platforms can get away with responses which are illegible, inaccurate and incomplete. Without the help of the data experts at PersonalData.Io and Hestia Labs, Guillaume would have got  no useful information out of Uber's response.

Guillaume and the data experts set themselves three very basic objectives that they wanted to get out of his data: distances driven, revenue and waiting time. They were able to find answers to all of these things, but only after a lot of work including comparing the data Uber provided with screenshots Guillaume had taken while working and data from other geolocation apps. Five workers plus Guillaume, including a mathematician, engineer and data journalist, were needed for this data analysis.

Of course, Uber could have saved them all the hassle, as this information will be just a keyboard stroke away for them, but they limit what they give out to drivers, ostensibly because they need to protect customer privacy. However, as Pidoux points out, Uber can anonymise the data or divide data types "so that you don’t combine the driver’s data with the passenger’s data". A choice is being made to deprive drivers of meaningful data. 

There is an argument to say that Uber may be in breach of GDPR rights here, such as Article 20 which requires that “the data subject shall have the right to receive the personal data…in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format”. But to tighten up GDPR, it would require the EU and member-states to have data protection enforcement teams that are willing and able to crackdown on shoddy compliance. PersonalData.Io tried to make a complaint to data protection authorities about Uber's response and "they say ‘well we have a lot of work we cannot treat these individual cases, talk to you later'", Pidoux says. 

Nonetheless, Guillaume's case study shows that even within the constraints of the present system, it's possible - if you have data experts on hand to help - for workers to extract useful information. In an economy where data is an increasingly crucial commodity, this should be something that trade unions are interested in taking advantage of. Guillaume and Pidoux struggled to get the Swiss union and lawyers representing the Uber drivers in Geneva interested in data until it became very clear that it would be massively useful for their back-dated pay claim, but even then, these are not data lawyers they are labour lawyers, and so they don't necessarily know how to make use of the data even if they can get it. 

On Friday [November 18], it was announced that as part of a new deal being proposed by the state and Uber to the Geneva drivers, they will all get access to their personal data, as a basis from which they can compare what Uber is offering them with what they should have been earning from 2014 to June 2022. PersonalData.IO say they are very keen to be involved in this data analysis. 

Unions which are serious about organising in the gig economy should be thinking about workers' data, how they can get it, and how they can make use of it. If a union can prove that, for instance, Uber drivers are paid below the minimum wage or spend more than one-third of their time waiting for trips, that can be hugely powerful information that can be put to use in a variety of ways. Guillaume and PersonalData.IO are illustrating what's possible.

Ben Wray, Gig Economy Project co-ordinator

Emergency funding appeal

BRAVE NEW EUROPE, the website which founded and hosts the Gig Economy Project, is running an emergency funding appeal. If it can't raise £20,000 in one-off and regular donations, the site will shut down. If you can support the BRAVE NEW EUROPE funding appeal, it will help keep both BNE and the Gig Economy Project going.

Gig Economy news round-up

  • UBER UK BOSS: RECESSION HASN'T SLOWED UBER DEMAND: The new UK boss of Uber, Andrew Brem, has said that despite the fact the UK has just officially entered recession, demand for Ubers continues to be "strong". "It is going to be tough for people but I expect demand for movement to be fairly strong," he said, "I haven't seen a reduction in demand for Uber rides yet". Brem, who was appointed in April, added that the company has no plans to make layoffs "yet", as Uber now employs 85,000 drivers in the UK after accepting part of the Supreme Court verdict on Uber drivers' employment status in February 2021. Uber plans to develop into a "superapp" for transport, where users can buy public transport tickets as well as book taxis from rival firms. The company launched in the UK 10 years ago this month. Read more here.
  • UBER EATS RIDERS TO STRIKE IN CANARY ISLANDS: Sub-contracted riders for Uber Eats in Spain's Canary Islands are preparing to go on strike on December 5 and 7. "We are willing to go where necessary to be respected as workers," Óliver Martín, rider and secretary of the Closer Logistics compression committee, the sub-contractor for Uber Eats on the Canary Islands. The strike is being co-ordinated through the UGT union, and the first mobilisation will be explictly in opposition to Uber Eats' breach of the Rider Law, which came into force in August 2021 and provides a legal presumption of employment for all food delivery couriers. Uber Eats initially went along with the Rider Law until it announced in August this year that it was moving to a twin system of offering riders work through sub-contractors and on a self-employed basis. That move has seen many of Uber's sub-contractors lay off riders, and Closer Logistics has announced 120 lay-offs in the Canary Islands. The strike is also against "totally abusive working conditions" at the sub-contractor. Martin says the company is in a "state of denial" about the establishment of a Works' Council at the firm and no longer responds to attempts at communication. Read more here.
  • FRANCE INSOUMISE TO PUT FORWARD BILL TO NATIONAL ASSEMBLY FOR UBER FILES PUBLIC INQUIRY: France Insoumise, the left-wing political grouping, has announced that it will propose a Bill to France's first chamber, the National Assembly, for a "commission of inquiry" to investigate the Uber Files revelations in France. The Uber Files showed how close President Emmanuel Macron was to Uber in his days as a minister in Francois Hollande's Presidency, even telling the company that he will ensure its interests will be defended in the Cabinet. Macron has defended his actions, saying it was for the good of the economy and he would do it again. Mark MacGann, the chief lobbyist of Uber from 2014-2016 who leaked the files, described a meeting with Macron at the time as "spectacular" and "unheard of", the Files revealed. The France Insoumise group said they wanted a "real investigation" into the "collusion links". Read more here.
  • EUROPEAN CENTRE FOR ALGORITHMIC TRANSPARENCY SET TO LAUNCH: The EU has established a new institution in the Spanish city of Seville, The European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency (ECAT), to contribute scientific and technical expertise to the European Commission on algorithms. The Digital Services Act, which entered into force this week, requires "algorithmic accountability" and "transparency audits", and therefore the Commission needs the expertise to deliver on this. As well as this, ECAT will develop high-quality research on algorithms and seek to promote a network of people working on algorithmic transparency. ECAT will be based in the Commission's Joint Research Center in the Andalucian capital, and will be up and running from January 2023. "“The idea is that we can engage with both academia and industry to make sure that we are getting the methodology right to make sure that algorithmic transparency is built into the design in the services that are offered to our citizens," an EU Commission official told Morning Express. Read more here.
  • JUST EAT AND GETIR ESTABLISH PARTNERSHIP: Just Eat, Europe's largest food delivery platform, and Getir, Europe's largest grocery delivery platform, have announced a partnership which will see Getir's product offerings integrated into Just Eat's app and delivered by Getir riders. The partnership will start in Germany next week and from there will be rolled out in the UK, Spain, Italy, and France in coming weeks. The partnership comes just one day after Uber Eats and GoPuff, the US grocery delivery platform, announced a very similar partnership in the UK. The two companies have been working together in the US since May. As the pioneer of ultrafast grocery delivery, we have found a strong partner in Just Eat with their excellent market positioning in Europe,” Turancan Salur, Getir regional general manager, said. Read more here.

On GEP this week

Uber, drivers and data: Can workers build data power?

Can workers access their data and use it to build their power? The Gig Economy Project looks at a fascinating case study from Geneva, Switzerland, to find out.
Data power in the gig economy: Interview with data expert Jessica Pidoux

The Gig Economy Project speaks to Jessica Pidoux, director of PersonalData.IO, about her critique of data in the platform economy and how gig workers can use data tools to build workers’ power (in podcast and text form).
From around the web
Gig workers are uniting to take back control from algorithms

Varsha Bansal writes in 'Rest of World' about how Indian gig workers are deploying cheap hacks to game the algorithm.
Life in the gig economy: The Instacart and Doordash shopper who feels like a company pawn

US gig workers tell their own stories of life in the gig economy.
Deliveroo’s exit from Australia shows why gig workers need more protections

Alex Veen, Caleb Goods and Tom Barratt write in The Conversation about Deliveroo's decision to exit the Australian market and what it shows about the gig economy.

Upcoming events

- The Centre of International and European Economic Law (CIEEL) is hosting a conference on “Digitalisation, Algorithmic Management and Labour Law” online and in-person (Athens, Greece), 24-26 November. For full details and to register, click here.

- Would you like to share your experiences as a platform worker in Germany and discuss opportunities to improve the conditions in platform work? Write to the project team of the Berlin-based project "Chancengerechte Plattformarbeit" ('Fair Chances in Platform Work') or take part in their survey.

Know of upcoming events we should be highlighting? Let us know at

Get Involved

The Gig Economy Project is a media network for gig workers and we welcome contributions from workers, writers, academics, activists - anyone who wants to stand up for workers' rights in the gig economy.

If you would like to write for the site, discuss arranging an interview with GEP, or simply have information about developments in the gig economy in Europe you think we should be aware of, get in touch. 

Contact project co-ordinator Ben Wray at or send a direct message to the Twitter: @project_gig.

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