Spain is on the verge of breaking the algorithmic black box of the concert economy


When the law is approved, Spain’s decision to force digital companies to open part of their algorithm to their workers could have an impact across the EU, which has already started negotiations with employers to achieve similar agreements.

“The openness of algorithms is above all an element of guaranteeing democratic and labor rights”, explains Carlos del Barrio, secretary in Catalonia for sectoral policies and sustainability, territorial policy and social action at Comisiones Obreras (CC .OO), one of the two largest unions. in the countryside. The law will begin to reclaim the rights of runners, who are subject to intense exploitation, says del Barrio. “Algorithms discriminate on the basis of sex and gender, as well as many other factors,†he says.

Companies in the gig economy did not welcome the deal. After the adoption of the new regulations, APS, a business group that includes Glovo, Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Stuart, claimed that having to disclose their algorithms “would undoubtedly affect the development of the digital economy in Spain very negatively, in no longer undermine the most fundamental principles of freedom of enterprise and industrial property. â€Neither Glovo nor Deliveroo responded to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Uber said the company is “fully committed to raising the level of work and offering the self-employed more advantages while preserving flexibility and control”.

Ulises Cortés, scientific coordinator for artificial intelligence at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center, says the exponential growth of the Internet is in part due to the lack of strong legislation regulating its use. “No one has ever thought of legislating on the use of private data; so so far there has been no regulation of the law for digital platforms. While the open price of their algorithms could cause companies to lose a competitive advantage, Cortés says the rule will finally bring some fairness to an industry that has often used its algorithms carelessly, on the assumption that they will never be regulated. .

But even that might not be enough to mend the rot at the heart of the concert economy model, which remains fundamentally stacked against runners. Maracucho says that like many other migrant bikers who need to earn money, he wishes he could work as many hours as possible. He fears that if the law is approved, Glovo will hire them for fewer hours and lower wages. At the same time, Maracucho acknowledges the current conditions are bad: the company pays very little – according to CC.OO, Glovo currently pays € 1.60 (£ 1.39) per order plus mileage – cuts fees without consultation and does not cover employees. vacation. He believes the rating system is unfair and should be regulated.

Unions and lawyers stress that the decree will not force companies to hire their workers – it will simply assume that they should. But even assuming that companies will hire their workers, the new law will exclude thousands of irregular workers from the system. These are the workers who have fueled the growth of platforms, and who have been exploited by ruthless gangmasters and occasional profiteers hovering on the fringes of the odd-job economy. According to Carlos del Barrio, renting accounts – as Maracucho did – is very common in Spain. In Catalonia alone there are around five riders for each license. “There are people who earn money at the expense of others who suffer from the most absolute precariousness, who take orders that no one wants to take, hours that no one wants to work,” says del Barrio.

Maracucho is clear: “I doubt the Spaniards will take a bike and start delivering. The platforms work because of people who work irregularly, â€he says. “What are they going to do now with all the runners who have no papers, who basically supported the platforms and raised them?”

Digital Society is a digital magazine that explores how technology is changing society. It is produced in an editorial partnership with Vontobel, but all content is editorially independent. Visit Vontobel Impact for more stories on how technology is shaping the future of the company.

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