Trump transportation chief expected to go light on ride-hailing regulation
President-elect Donald Trump announced that he’s selected Elaine Chao, previously the Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush and Deputy Secretary of Transportation under President George H. W. Bush, to lead the Department of Transportation. Trump’s pick is likely a boon for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, Fortune reports. Chao voiced support for a light hand in regulating sharing or gig economy companies a year ago at an American Action Forum. “We need to preserve the protections of the past for those who need them, while crafting new solutions that better fit the preferences of workers in the sharing economy,” she said. “At a minimum, government policies must not stifle the innovation that has made this sector such an explosive driver of job growth and opportunity.”
EU court to address Uber identity crisis
The Court of Justice of the European Union, the EU’s top judicial authority, has been trying to determine whether Uber is a taxi company or a tech platform that enables customers to find drivers. The decision, which is not likely to come before April, will serve as a precedent for other sharing-economy companies, Bloomberg reports. The case presents a familiar European dilemma when it comes to technology-enabled business models: One on hand, Europe, which is generally more labor-friendly than the U.S., wants to protect the rights of workers. At the same time, though, Europe wants to enjoy the benefits of being an environment where tech companies can flourish.
Online education service pairing tech workers with gigs
Udacity, a Silicon Valley company whose online education platform is designed to prepare students for tech jobs, launched a new service, Blitz, last month, Fortune reports. Blitz pairs engineers with corporate clients to work on tech projects. First, clients propose projects. Next, Blitz evaluates the projects and matches clients with select engineers. After the projects are completed, clients can continue working with the engineering team or hire the engineers full-time, according to Udacity.
On-demand trash and recycling pickup? There’s an app for that
Zco Corp., an app development company, has created an app, Pick Pink, that helps users coordinate garbage and recycling pickups with haulers, and helps haulers manage their workload. Customers can schedule either one-time or weekly trash pickup on Pick Pink. Haulers can earn approximately $20 per hour, according to a Zco press release. “This app was created to expand garbage and recycling options beyond the standard waste management options and give people a choice,” said Brain Elsey, co-developer of the apps.
New research suggests gender, racial bias in online freelance marketplaces
Online marketplaces like Fiverr and TaskRabbit that facilitate freelance services are vulnerable to racial and gender bias, according to new research by a team at Northeastern University. For example, the study finds that, on Fiverr, women received fewer reviews than men, and African-American workers received lower ratings than white workers. Similar trends were discovered on TaskRabbit. However, the study suggests it’s social feedback, not the marketplace’s algorithms, that causes the disparities. “What I suspect … with TaskRabbit’s algorithm is that social feedback, such as reviewer comments, are considered in determining the ranking, and we know that social feedback can be biased,” said Christo Wilson, a Northeastern professor who was part of the team behind the study.
Gig Briefs provides a roundup of top news and occasional long reads on the gig economy.