The Reputation Economy

Om Malik wonders what effect the ability to rate everything will have on employer-employee dynamics. He notes that freelance drivers for Uber, the app that connects people to luxury car service, protested after their “accounts were deactivated because of passenger feedback”:

It is easy to understand [Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick’s] standpoint – our customers don’t like these drivers, so we are cutting them out. And I can understand the drivers’ point of view: They have never been rated and discarded like this before, and are rightfully angry. … In the industrial era, labor unrest came when the workers felt that the owners were profitting wrongfully from them. I wonder if in the connected age, we are going to see labor unrest when folks are unceremoniously dropped from the on-demand labor pool. What are the labor laws in a world where workforce is on demand? And an even bigger question is how are we as a society going to create rules, when data, feedback and, most importantly, reputation are part an always-shifting equation?

Meanwhile, in an effort to highlight the benefits of this “state of connectedness,” Ryan Lawler points to a recent case in which an Uber driver was accused of sexual assault:

Do a quick search on Google or Google News for “cab driver rape” and you’ll find no shortage of articles detailing such cases. What stands out about the news stories in those links is the unfortunate and sad truth that sexual assaults by taxi drivers are not as unusual as they should be.

But Uber’s got something that regular taxi or limo services don’t have. So do SideCar and Lyft. They have an identity system that connects a driver to a ride. They have rating systems to help determine which drivers are doing a good job, and which aren’t. They have feedback systems through which unhappy passengers can report something that went wrong. And, in the case of a crime, they have time, date, and ride logs so they can quickly identify perpetrators. Which means, if you were a criminal and somehow got through the pre-vetting process for any of these new services, you’d have to be an absolute idiot to commit a crime while on the job.