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Discriminating Tastes: Uber's Customer Ratings as Vehicles for Workplace Discrimination

Policy & Internet, 2017, DOI: 10.1002/poi3.153

24 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2016 Last revised: 25 Jul 2017

Alex Rosenblat

Data & Society Research Institute

Karen EC Levy

Cornell University

Solon Barocas

Cornell University

Tim Hwang

Data & Society Research Institute

Date Written: June 28, 2017

Abstract

Consumer-sourced rating systems are a dominant method of worker evaluation in platform-based work. These systems facilitate the semi-automated management of large, disaggregated workforces, and the rapid growth of service platforms — but may also represent a potential avenue for employment discrimination that negatively impacts members of legally protected groups. We analyze the Uber platform as a case study to explore how bias may creep into evaluations of drivers through consumer-sourced rating systems, and draw on social science research to demonstrate how such bias emerges in other types of rating and evaluation systems. While companies are legally prohibited from making employment decisions based on protected characteristics of workers, their reliance on potentially biased consumer ratings to make material determinations may nonetheless lead to a disparate impact in employment outcomes. We analyze the limitations of current civil rights law to address this issue, and outline a number of operational, legal, and design-based interventions that might assist in so doing.

Keywords: platforms, data, discrimination, bias, inequality, ratings, sharing economy, algorithm

Suggested Citation

Rosenblat, Alex and Levy, Karen EC and Barocas, Solon and Hwang, Tim, Discriminating Tastes: Uber's Customer Ratings as Vehicles for Workplace Discrimination (June 28, 2017). Policy & Internet, 2017, DOI: 10.1002/poi3.153. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2858946

Alex Rosenblat

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
New York,, NY
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.datasociety.net

Karen Levy

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Solon Barocas (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Tim Hwang

Data & Society Research Institute ( email )

36 West 20th Street
11th Floor
New York,, NY 10011
United States

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