Photo credits: Odua Images

In Geneva, the data collective ‘Digipower Academy’ offers Uber drivers an independent analysis of their data, so that they can claim the expenses they are owed.

On 30 May 2022, Switzerland’s Federal Court has upheld a ruling that the US ride-hailing firm should be treated as an employer, rejecting Uber’s attempt to overturn a Geneva court’s verdict. Consequently, Uber has been offering individual compensation packages to drivers for the back-dated pay and expenses they are owed. The drivers had until 31 January to decide whether they accept Uber's offer or take their compensation case to an industrial tribunal. The independent data analysis, led by mathematician Paul-Olivier Dehaye and his 'Digipower Academy' team, is therefore either a basis upon which they can verify Uber's calculations, or evidence they can use in court if they decide to reject Uber's offer.

Digipower Academy's results have been significantly different from Uber's calculations, showing roughly 20% more driving on average. For its part, Uber stated that ‘the amounts related to mileage allowances have always been subject to the same methodology, which has presented during the discussions that led to the state's decision [of accepting their compliance proposal], last November’.

Some of the drivers will take their case to court, which will take years to conclude but will be very important case law as it would set a precedent, and not just in Switzerland. If an independent data analysis can be used to defeat Uber's own calculations in a court and secure higher compensation for drivers, that could inspire Uber drivers and other types of platform workers to pursue litigation on the same basis around the world. At least this is the ambition of Digipower Academy, together with Hestia Labs and PersonalData.Io, two other Swiss organisations aiming at empowering workers via their data.

Dehaye, who is more well-known for his work in exposing the Cambridge Analytica scandal, is now meeting drivers from across France and in Sweden to train them in how to recover and analyse their own data. He is thinking big about what's possible. ‘We could turn surveillance capitalism on its head’. With the platform work directive around the corner, independently led data analyses could benefit millions of workers in Europe. According to the Gig Economy Project, a media network for gig workers in Europe, ‘getting workers to think about data as their work tool is a big challenge in itself, but the starting point for that realisation is to not take what the platforms tell you about your data for granted, and instead to find ways to access and understand it independently’.