Privacy International's proposed amendments to the EU Directive on Working Conditions and Platform Work
PI submitted amendments to the EU's Directive on Working Conditions and Platform Work to raise concerns about the threats workers face when they are subjected to automated decision-making systems. This is part of our work defending workers' rights to access information as well appropriate mechanisms to defend their interests, and, more broadly our efforts to ensure that automated decision-making systems are subjected to effective and robust scrutiny.
- The current draft of the Directive on Working Conditions and Platform Work contains shortcomings with regard to general principles relating to the fundamental right to privacy, including privacy by design and by default, transparency and decisions affecting platform workers’ working conditions
- We focused on the threats to workers’ rights that can materialise at three key levels: when personal data is being collected, when decision-making occurs with no transparency and when decision-making systems operate without human oversight.
- PI's Managed by Bots campaign exposed how such threats can have can be financially and emotionally devastating for workers and urges the Member of the European Parliament to consider these amendments
Algorithmic management fundamentally relies on the availability of data to make decisions. The impact that these decisions can have on workers can be financially and emotionally devastating.
PI has previously exposed this issue through the Managed by Bots campaign - in which we called for the conditions under which data is collected and processed to be subjected to effective and robust scrutiny.
To address the threats to workers' privacy and prevent the ascent of inscrutable black box algorithms, employers must be accountable and transparent in relation to their data collection and processing practices. Platform workers must have access to mechanisms which enable data security and provide them with information in way that empowers them and ensures that their rights are protected at least as much as employees and workers working under ‘traditional’ employment contracts.
While we welcome the Platform Directive as a mechanism to protect workers’ rights in response to transformations in the workplace, we note that the proposal put forward by the European Commission contains certain shortcomings with regard to general principles relating to the fundamental right to privacy, including privacy by design and by default, transparency and decisions affecting platform workers’ working conditions, which are all detailed in the report below. It is crucial that these are effectively addressed by the European Parliament through the introduction of specific amendments to ensure that the aim of the Directive is not undermined, and that workers’ rights remain protected.
The three key principles defended in this report are summarised in essence by the following:
The data produced by workers’ devices can be extremely revealing. Accessing this data is intrusive and threatens their enjoyment of their fundamental rights. To limit threats to workers’ privacy, only data which is necessary for the performance or attribution of work should be collected and only during periods of time agreed by workers.
Decision-making systems are complex and fallible systems with which real human beings interact and depend on. To ensure that workers, users, researchers, and the general public can assess, understand, and challenge these systems, transparency about the parameters considered by these systems and their functionality is key, in particular when such systems are relied on to make significant decisions such as account termination.
Given the fallible nature of decision-making algorithms, decisions affecting platform workers’ working conditions should never be taken without human review. The aim of human review is to ensure that both the parameters and logic deployed are correct.