While the sharing economy ought to be embraced as a novel form of technology-enabled commerce, the rhetoric of sharing and the allure of disruption should not be allowed to mask concerns relating to the asymmetries of information. That’s according to a new research paper written by Ryan Calo of the University of Washington School of Law and the Data & Society Research Institute’s Alex Rosenblatt.
The co-authors argue that sharing economy firms have the ability to monitor and channel the behaviour of all participants – and may use this capacity to everyone’s detriment but their own.
Sharing economy firms have a unique capacity to monitor and nudge all participants – including people whose livelihood may depend on the platform, they say. “Much activity is hidden away from view, but preliminary evidence suggests that sharing economy firms may already be leveraging their access to information about users and their control over the user experience to mislead, coerce, or otherwise disadvantage sharing economy participants.”
Calo and Rosenblatt believe that while consumer protection law is relatively well-positioned to address this asymmetry of the sharing economy, the regulatory response to date seems “outdated and superficial”.