Management By Bots Harms Gig Workers

Gig economy workers who use apps and platforms to find work are managed, profiled and controlled by opaque algorithmic systems according to Worker Info Exchange, an organisation which helps workers obtain information held about them.  Worker Info Exchange say the technology used by platforms cause harm to workers who are not in control over their data and how it is processed.

Algorithmic workforce management systems determine how work will be allocated, to whom, how often, for what amount, and crucially, whether someone will be subjected to disciplinary action, including dismissals.

Complex data systems flag every behaviour that might indicate unusual activity, and when they do, the burden is placed on the workers to prove they have done nothing wrong. Unaware of what measures, metrics, or rules they are evaluated against, workers try to piece together the evidence of their innocence to contest disciplinary decisions.

According to the report:

  • There is insufficient transparency of the algorithmic management systems used by gig economy employers.  Legally required explanations are incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
  • Questionable predictive tools are used to predict ‘fraudulent behaviour’ of workers.
  • Disproportionate surveillance by gig platforms is resulting in an unaccountable expansion of law enforcement access to personal data.

Over the past year, Worker Info Exchange has made over 500 subject access requests on behalf of workers, to counter these allegations and build collective power by addressing the informational asymmetry in the gig economy.  Unfortunately they have been met with resistance to workers exercising their digital rights, so a campaign is now being launched to collectively challenge the surveillance techniques deployed by some of the biggest companies in the gig economy sector.

 

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