Uber’s challenge to balance driver safety with customer privacy

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – Margaret Bordelon can nonetheless really feel the arms of the drunk man who tried to drag her in for a kiss on the finish of his Uber experience final September in Lafayette, Louisiana. Margaret Bordelon, a driver for Uber, seems out her automotive window on the location the place a passenger sexually harassed her after a experience in Lafayette, Louisiana, U.S. February 16, 2020. Picture taken February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O’HareAn Uber driver for only some months, Bordelon, 45, lastly satisfied the shopper to let her go. Since he booked the experience via a good friend, she didn’t know his title. After reporting the incident by telephone to Uber the identical evening, an organization consultant advised her that she would now not be paired with the account holder. Beyond that, there was little else she might do for cover.   “When I asked Uber what it was going to do to protect me and other women going forward, I received no response,” Bordelon recalled. Uber reiterated the message to her in writing a day later, saying that any habits involving violence, sexual misconduct, or criminal activity “can result in the immediate loss of access to the app” for the shopper. Uber declined to handle the way it responded particularly in Bordelon’s case, and 14 different U.S. feminine drivers Reuters spoke with stated Uber by no means advised them what steps the corporate took after they reported assault or sexual harassment by prospects. “Safety is essential to Uber,” a spokesman stated in an announcement. “Over the last two years, we’ve launched more (safety) features than in the previous eight.” The 15 ladies interviewed by Reuters, contacted via social media assist teams, don’t characterize a complete evaluation of Uber’s response to allegations of acts of violence in opposition to drivers. But knowledge printed by Uber in December – a primary for the trade – confirmed drivers have been the victims in almost half of about 6,000 experiences of sexual assault throughout Uber rides within the United States in 2017 and 2018. The interviews and knowledge present how Uber’s efforts to guard buyer privateness have generally come into battle with the protection of a few of its drivers. The extent of Uber’s duty for its drivers’ security, in keeping with authorized consultants and courtroom data, can also be tied up with the unsettled authorized query of whether or not they’re contractors – as the corporate claims – or workers. If the drivers have been categorised as workers, they might unionize to handle security issues, or sue Uber for damages below the U.S. insurance-based system of employees’ compensation, stated Pauline Kim, a regulation professor at Washington University in St. Louis. For instance in New York City, the nation’s largest taxi market, the vast majority of taxi operators are thought of workers below state regulation, entitled to employees’ compensation protections. However, as contractors, drivers don’t have any such assured rights they usually can not declare advantages from Uber. Uber says most of its drivers don’t wish to be workers, valuing the pliability of on-demand work. Its enterprise mannequin depends on less-costly contractors and in idea additionally protects it from authorized claims. Drivers struggling an assault can nonetheless sue Uber over private harm claims, however attorneys advised Reuters they’re reluctant to take these instances over a danger it might cement the drivers’ contractor standing earlier than a courtroom. “While making a claim against Uber is the only feasible way for a sexually assaulted driver to receive compensation for her losses, Uber prevents them from doing so by calling them independent contractors,” stated Juli Porto, a lawyer who represents ride-hailing passengers sexually assaulted by drivers. Of course Uber drivers can nonetheless sue their assailant, however non-public individuals hardly ever have the belongings to pay for judgments in opposition to them and insurance coverage insurance policies typically don’t cowl felony acts. Uber advised Reuters that its drivers, as unbiased contractors, have the correct to say no or cancel any journey request, and might finish a visit in the event that they really feel unsafe. Recently added security options embody an emergency providers button within the app and methods to share journey places, that ought to profit each riders and drivers, Uber advised Reuters. But some drivers stated Uber’s efforts to handle security issues felt one-sided. “I need to provide my driver’s license, photos of my car, registration, insurance, inspection results and a selfie before I can start driving. But riders do not even need to use their real names,” stated Uber driver Melissa Campbell, 48, from Eugene, Oregon. Passengers signing up should present a sound bank card, telephone quantity and e-mail deal with, however Uber doesn’t require them to confirm their id or add an image to keep away from potential discrimination in opposition to them, it says. Even if the passenger makes use of their actual title, drivers are now not capable of view account particulars as soon as the journey is accomplished to guard buyer privateness. In written responses to the drivers submitting security experiences, Uber advised drivers they will report incidents to the police who can file a request for riders’ private data on their behalf, messages reviewed by Reuters confirmed. In a November report, Uber stated it obtained almost 22,000 requests from U.S. regulation enforcement for person account particulars in 2018 and produced a minimum of some knowledge in 72% of the instances. In some instances, Uber cited its privateness insurance policies when declining to replace drivers on the conclusion of their instances, the ladies stated. When Bordelon in February requested in regards to the final result of her case, Uber advised her it completely reviewed the report and took the suitable motion with this person’s account, and referred her to a nationwide sexual assault hotline, in keeping with a message seen by Reuters. Some drivers Reuters spoke with famous that if they’d entry to a buyer’s drop-off location earlier than accepting a gig, they might really feel extra protected. With the exception of California, Uber doesn’t provide drivers such data. The firm added location particulars and different options to its California driver app this 12 months after the state handed a regulation making it more durable for “gig economy” firms to categorise employees as contractors. Uber stated the added data offers drivers extra discretion and subsequently bolsters its place that they’re unbiased contractors. It stated the situation data “is not intended to be a safety feature.” Slideshow (11 Images)Rejecting experience requests solely to keep away from sure neighborhoods, the corporate stated, “violates Uber’s Community Guidelines and, in some cases, state and local laws” in opposition to discrimination. Since September’s incident in Lafayette, Bordelon has halved her hours from round 40 per week and armed herself with a non-lethal taser, permitted below Uber’s phrases of use if used defensively.  “I really loved driving before, but Uber is not going to keep good drivers like me if they continue treating us this way,” Bordelon stated. Editing by Catherine Evans and Edward TobinOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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