D&S Researcher Alex Rosenblat takes a look at the fallout after the Uber’s recent political showdown with the Austin City Council and explores several ways in which the interests of the platform and the interests of those using the platform are farther apart than the company’s political rhetoric would suggest.
At their core, Uber and Lyft are using technology to mediate labor-consumer transactions—they rely on automation to manage a massive, distributed workforce in a diverse set of regional contexts. From the perspective of a user opening the app, the objective is to provide a clean, reliable, reliable experience wherever and whenever a car is called. The uniformity and seamlessness of user experience and the power of local political campaigns can lull us into a false sense that these platforms have the same interests everywhere, and that those interests are aligned with passengers and drivers. Particularly as more tech companies seek to replicate the successes that Uber and Lyft have had in other contexts, democracies must be alert to the evolving agendas being driven behind the scenes.