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5 Jan 2021

Gabriel Geiger, Vice

Court Rules Deliveroo Used 'Discriminatory' Algorithm

An algorithm used by the popular European food delivery app Deliveroo to rank and offer shifts to riders is discriminatory, an Italian court ruled late last week, in what some experts are calling a historic decision for the gig economy. The case was brought by a group of Deliveroo riders backed by CGIL,Italy’s largest trade union...

While machine-learning algorithms are central to Deliveroo’s entire business model, the particular algorithm examined by the court allegedly was used to determine the “reliability” of a rider. According to the ordinance, if a rider failed to cancel a shift pre-booked through the app at least 24 hours before its start, their “reliability index” would be negatively affected. Since riders deemed more reliable by the algorithm were first to be offered shifts in busier timeblocks, this effectively meant that riders who can’t make their shifts—even if it’s because of a serious emergency or illness—would have fewer job opportunities in the future.

According to the court, the algorithm’s failure to take into account the reasons behind a cancellation amounts to discrimation and unjustly penalizes riders with legally legitimate reasons for not working. Deliveroo was ordered to pay €50,000 (~$61,400) to the suing parties...

The case is also indicative of an increased willingness on behalf of regulators, the judicial system, labor unions, and workers across the continent to tackle blackbox algorithms, and an increased awareness of how such algorithms can potentially be abused to circumvent traditional labor protections.