Phoebe V Moore

The Quantified Worker

Is your boss watching you?

I was on the expert panel in the BBC World Service In the Balance programme, along with CEO for Humanyze Ben Weber, and Ekkehard Ernst from the International Labour Organization. The journalist was Ed Butler and the producer, Audrey Tinline.

The programme is about monitoring, tracking, measuring and analysising technologies and increasing applications in workplaces.

Here are some of the points I made:

  • It is often what is NOT counted that matters more than what is counted, because any time you create a series of metrics you leave out a whole range of qualitative detail that was once firmly part of the employment relationship.
  • Machines and computers can collect data and make calculations more quickly than humans, but when we start to say that machines are better at making decisions than humans, or we use machinic outputs to make decisions about other people, then we start to potentially encounter problems.
  • There are assumptions that some workforces are less resistant to monitoring technologies, but in fact, like in the case of the different cases of filming a factory console in Japan Vs the lack of the same in Germany, there are different labour laws and processes that determine how technologies may be used in the workplace. Germany has collective determination as part of its legal system, and unions and works councils must be consulted before these kinds of activities can be carried. That doesn’t necessarily mean that companies don’t do it, though.
  • Workers are now engaging in souveillance, which means that they are now ‘watching the watchers’. If companies want more and more data about workers, then workers will soon, or already do want more and more information about companies, because the flexibilised generation of today are entering a very unstable gig work infested job market.
  • The foundations for GDPR, listed in the first sections of the document, make it clear that: (71): The data subject has the right not to be subject to a decision, which may include a measure, evaluating personal aspects relating to him or her which is based solely on automated processing and which produces legal effects concerning him or her or similarly significant affects him or her, such as… e-recruiting practices without any human intervention. Such processing includes profiling that consists of any form of automated processing of personal data evaluating the personal aspects of a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning the data subject’s performance at work… reliability or behaviour, location or movements, where it produces legal effects concerning him or her or similarly significantly affects him or her.

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This entry was posted on August 12, 2019 by .
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