For current political commentary, see the daily political notes.
RMS' Bio | The GNU Project
We should not accept the promotional term "sharing economy" for companies like Uber. That is spin. A more accurate term is "piecework subcontractor economy".
Uber is a big advance in massive surveillance. Unlike a taxi, an Uber car can't be used anonymously. You can't pay cash. It also requires use of nonfree software, which mistreats the user.
Because I reject technology that mistreats me, I will never order or pay for an Uber car. Because Uber threatens to eliminate the taxis that are acceptable to use, I go beyond that: I will not let someone order an Uber car for me. How about joining me?
Abuse of Drivers
Comparison to Real Taxis
In August 2017, Uber made it possible to turn that extra tracking off, but it is still enabled by default, and most customers won't think to turn it off.
That is only a tiny step forward.
Uber hacked Lyft's ride-management server with phony accounts in order to identify people that were driving for Lyft.
Uber has the technical possibility to do this because its app is nonfree: it is controlled by Uber, not by the user. In addition, snooping depends on a nonfree operating system. With a free system, the user could tell the system to lie to the Uber app.
This problem comes directly out of the practices listed above that mistreat all users of Uber.
If you take an ordinary taxi and pay cash, it will generate no records associated with you — except in New York City where the government might apply face recognition to identify your photo in real time.
To recover our privacy and make democracy safe, we need to redesign digital systems so that they do not collect information about people in general. First step, don't help any new ones gain a foothold.
It appears that Guber gouges frequent or regular passengers by charging them more.
If we eliminate the surveillance injustice of Guber by stopping it from identifying passengers, this wrong would automatically go away too.
I'm not talking about the software that Uber runs in its servers; that does not directly affect customers. If some of that software is nonfree, it tramples Uber's freedom, but not the customers' freedom. The nonfree software and digital services that Uber requires its users to use attack their freedom in various ways.
Guber is an unregulated near-monopoly, so it can cut rates for drivers arbitrarily.
Drivers are starting to complain that they're left with little money for their work.
GUber can arbitrarily cut drivers' pay, and they need to work 15 hours a day. Some are trying to unionize, but it won't be easy.
Guber has organized in NYC something reminiscent of a company union for its drivers, except it isn't even a union.
Uber claims its drivers are independent contractors, but not very independent, since they are not allowed to contract for other ride companies.
By the way, it is clear that Juno has the same basic injustice as Uber: customers must run nonfree software and identify themselves. Uber is more nasty and arrogant, but both of them are enemies of our freedom. We should should reject both of them completely.
Uber drivers in the US get a median net income of around $15 per hour (as of 2018). But when the costs of driving are deducted, it falls to under $10.
Uber's Underpayment of Drivers Keeping It Afloat, Report Finds.
We can protect our freedom by protecting drivers' pay rates.
If you are a short-term thinker, you will be delighted to take advantage of this — until it controls the market and squeezes you forever.
The company could not prevent Chinese repression, but upholding it in this way is complicity.
Lyft is no better than Uber in this regard.
This decision itself may not be objectionable. Taxis typically charge for making them wait. But that regulation is set by a city agency which is at least somewhat responsible to the people. Uber is a business headquartered somewhere else, which accepts no responsibility to the people of any city.
We should not allow a company to privatize the making of the regulations that create our social order.
It would be easy for a non-plutocratic government to prohibit this, and that's what every country ought to do, unless/until every person gets an adequate basic income so people don't need to be employed.
With real taxis, you can flag one on the street or phone in any fashion; you can pay cash; you can be anonymous.
Beware of thinking of Uber as one more option in addition to real taxis. At the moment, that's true, but if Uber is a big success, real taxis could disappear.
Then what will you do, if you don't want to tell Big Brother where you are going?
The study does not demonstrate how the discrimination and cheating occur, but does demonstrate the statistical phenomenon.
Uber charges different prices to different people. Other companies also engage, or have engaged, in price discrimination. It turns out that identifying customers helps many businesses put customers at a disadvantage.
The only thorough solution is to do what is needed for other reasons: eliminate the systems that let companies know who the customer is.
Guber programmed its system for special treatment of people that might be investigating accusations of violating municipal regulations. The special treatment was that the system would say a car was coming, but no car would ever arrive.
Uber has the ability to do this because it forces all its clients to identify themselves — which is fundamentally unjust.
Uber's autonomous cars frequently violate traffic laws.
Uber tries to put the blame on human safety monitors, who could in principle intervene to stop this.
That's the general Uber attitude: profits to the company, burdens to the drivers.
I would guess that the safety monitors would be hard-pressed to react fast enough to prevent these maneuvers — which would mean that they are an excuse and a scapegoat, not a real safety system.
Uber imposes arbitration on customers for all complaints, including rape by drivers, and this covers up the prevalence of the problem.
No company should be allowed to require its customers or its workers (whether labeled "employee" or "independent contractors") to use arbitration instead of going to court.
Uber seems to be harassing its competitor, Lyft, by systematically scheduling rides and canceling them.
Lyft doesn't do all the nasty things that Uber does, but it does the fundamental unacceptable thing: it makes passengers identify themselves.
Uber is losing a lot of money every year, but we cannot tell how much because it releases only vaguely defined accounting information, insufficient to tell its real losses.
This is crucial because it can't keep this up indefinitely. Some day it will have to raise its prices quite a bit. If Uber customers patronize Uber so much now that its competitors disappear before that day, they will regret their actions when the price goes up.
Guber denies doing this, but I don't trust Guber.
By the way, I don't see anything wrong in offering taxi rides driven by attractive models of either sex. However, this need not and should not be accompanied by Uber-style contempt towards women (and men).
Uber is pushing taxi drivers to suicide.
Don't be a customer for Uber!
Copyright (c) 2014-2019 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.