Governing work through personal data: The case of Uber drivers in Geneva
This article presents an ethnographic account of the advocacy initiative, conducted by NGO PersonalData.IO and the company Hestia.ai, that seeks to empower gig workers by helping them regain access to their personal data through data access rights, using the European Union General Data Protection Regulation. It is based on a case study of Uber drivers in Geneva that has a worldwide relevance for the gig economy. Previously self-employed, drivers are now classified as employees and their working time and earnings must be calculated according to local labour laws. We contribute to debates on algorithmic management in ride-hailing platforms by focusing on participatory methods of accountability through personal data, from an infrastructural perspective. First, we focus on the nexus between personal data protection and algorithmic management to understand the domination of ride-hailing platforms over the workers’ means of production, i.e., their personal data. We provide empirical transparency on the data structures of Uber for the sake of algorithmic accountability. These structures are utilised for their surge pricing algorithms and ultimately govern the workforce. Second, within a collective process of governance, we built participatory tools and methods for empowering gig workers and data scientists. These are means for calculating earnings and working that made explicit a new social meaning of work, i.e., “lost time between rides”.
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