Sharing by proxy: Invisible users in the sharing economy

Gemma Newlands, Christoph Lutz, Christian Pieter Hoffmann


With the future of work increasingly data-driven, platforms automate decisions based on the collection of vast quantities of user data. However, non-users constitute a challenge as they provide little to no data for either platforms or other users. We focus on a category of (non-)users that has not received any attention in research: users-by-proxy. Users-by-proxy make use of sharing services but they are not themselves part of the sharing transaction. Platforms cannot analyze their behavior to tailor services or allocate labor most effectively. Users-by-proxy also have significant implications for trust and reputation mechanisms. In this conceptual contribution, we provide a definition of users-by-proxy as a third category between users and non-users, developing a typology of users-by-proxy based on motives of non-/use. We focus on the ramifications of users-by-proxy for the future of work and their significance for the limits of data-driven decision-making.


sharing economy; proxy use; digital inequality; participation; sharing

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