Italian watchdog targets delivery company’s gig-worker algorithms

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A Glovo bicycle delivery driver in downtown Milan, Italy on May 18, 2018. REUTERS / Stefano Rellandini / File Photo

MILAN, July 5 (Reuters) – The Italian data protection authority on Monday ordered delivery company Foodinho, owned by Spanish start-up Glovo, to change the computer algorithms used to manage staff to avoid any discrimination, after finding breaches of privacy and work laws.

The move comes as a debate on how to regulate workers’ rights in the digitized “gig economy” is unfolding around the world. The European Commission has opened a public consultation on potential EU-wide rules. Read more

Unions say management algorithms on international platforms are eroding the wages and rights of concert workers, just as lockdowns to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have increased demand for casual workers such as delivery drivers.

Watchdog Garante said he ordered Foodinho to pay a fine of 2.6 million euros ($ 3.1 million) after an investigation into his handling of his 19,000 runners in Italy, as well as d ‘other online delivery platforms.

He said the company failed to properly explain its automatic order management system to its workers and failed to ensure that the results of the automatic worker performance review processes were correct.

Foodinho also failed to provide workers with the means to challenge decisions made using the algorithm, including excluding some runners from taking orders, the authority said.

The watchdog gave Foodinho 150 days to make the required changes, and said Spain’s data authority will look into Glovo’s international digital platform.

Glovo, which is based in Barcelona and operates its services in Italy through Foodinho, did not immediately comment.

The company delivers everything from food to household supplies to some 10 million users in 20 countries.

A Spanish court ruled last year that Glovo workers were employees, not freelancers, while the Spanish government is proposing legislation to give unions access to the algorithms tech companies use to manage their workforces.

And in February, the UK Supreme Court found that a group of Uber drivers were entitled to workers’ rights such as minimum wage. ($ 1 = 0.8434 euros)

Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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