Unsolicited pop up add on the Uber App. Uber doing the government a favour…but at what cost?
Uber has started pushing messages to passengers in app to register for eligibility to vote in the upcoming EU referendum. According to the Guardian Uber is partnering with the mega cool Bite the Ballot campaign to get hipsters to care more about politics with messages like: ‘But Politics needs rebranding!‘
Don’t get me wrong, UPHD is far from cynical about the importance of democratic participation and mobilizing the vote but context is key in understanding some of the motives beyond the virtue. Consider the following:
- The FT reports that Uber got involved in this initiative after attending a meeting at Number 10 Chaired by Daniel Korski calling on tech companies to do more to mobilize 16-24 year old’s to vote. This demographic is, according to the Electoral Commission, twice as likely not to be on the register as the general population. Polls also show this group is more likely to back a Cameron led Yes vote. Now this is the same Daniel Korski who was caught red handed arranging a cozy chat with TfL’s Leon Daniels and London Deputy Mayor Isabel Dedring last October to discuss issues of pressing national importance such as ‘Uber Freight potential’ and ‘Uber personal mobility’. All of this was going on in smokey Whitehall backrooms, though later uncovered in an FOI disclsoure, while the rest of us were allegedly having our say in the private hire regulatory review consultation. In light of Korski’s enthusiastic support of Uber, planting a pop up message to get out the EU referendum is but a small ask of Uber from Downing Street.
- Uber’s partner in the current voter mobilization initiative, Bite the Ballot, is supported by none other than City law firm Hogan Lovells. This just happens to be the same firm that, in representing Uber, managed to persuade a High Court judge that Uber’s measurement of time and distance billing is not, errrmm, a time and distance meter. Hogan Lovell’s Yasmin Waljee is a Trustee of the Bite the Ballot campaign.
- Uber has a history of picking sides and muscling in on political decision making to get its way even at the cost of other vulnerable stakeholders. It did so on the issue of a cap in New York, it rallied customers to back its selfish interests in the TfL private hire regulatory review. In the Mayoral election Uber strong armed drivers into sending a letter to Zac Goldsmith supporting poverty inducing services like Uber Pool where Uber reduces the fare by 25% and increases its commission share from 20% to 35% leaving the driver with crumbs. The point is, Uber cannot now credibly support a neutral get out the vote campaign when its politics have been so partisan. Will the company continue to support such a campaign in the future if the demographics are likely to run against its own corporate agenda?
In summary, great work Uber in getting out the vote. We just hope the price of the favour done for Korski and Number 10 does not come at the cost of upholding worker rights for 105,000 private hire drivers now in a hunger games race to survive on starvation wages due to Uber’s business model.