Explainability and Understanding of Workplace Surveillance

Activiteit: Academic presentationAcademic


Internet of Things’ devices (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence’s algorithms (AI) make workplaces’ surveillance unprecedentedly meticulous. Tracking workforce traits, behaviours and results is increasingly the new normal, also in light of the pandemic scenario, where working from home and workplace surveillance to prevent contagion have been (and will be) a necessity. This meticulousness indeed allows for a data-driven reorganisation of workplaces, significantly rewriting the way hierarchies are articulated in subordinate employment. Along this, the workforce and unions are confronted with often obscure surveillance, due to the high level of technical skills needed to understand how AI and IoT networks work. Fundamental labour rights such equal treatment, freedom of thought, assembly, association and prohibition of forced labour risk being affected by the ability – available nowadays to employers and third-party services – to gather important amounts of data relating to workforce and working environment, opening for potential lacks in fundamental freedoms’ enforcement. The first elaborations of the mentioned essential labour rights developed at the dawn of modern industrial society towards decent working conditions. Still today, part of the legal theory describes labour regulation as the countervailing power against the inherent inequality in subordinate employment, due to the hierarchies it entails. The role of those essential rights, again, shall take on a protective function for workers in the labour market. Some scholars claim the right to data protection and private life (art. 7, 8 CFREU, art. 8 ECHR) as rights 'enabling' the information symmetry, opening ‘black boxes’, safeguarding trade union freedoms, equal treatment and protection against forced labour conditions. Nevertheless, European jurisprudence is still divided. The jurisprudence ranges from identifying requirements of legitimacy, legality, necessity and proportionality with a duty of notification on employers under art. 8 ECHR (ECtHR, Bărbulescu v. Romania), to denying that duty as a necessary condition for workplace surveillance (ECtHR, Lopez Ribalda v. Spain) thus emphasizing the employer's free economic initiative. The proposed theoretical analysis aims at deriving from European jurisprudence on art. 4, 8-11 ECHR and 5,7-8,10-12 CFREU (e.g.: ECtHR Demir and Baykara v Turkey, Wilson and Palmer v UK) and the available literature two converging principles. The explainability of the technologies involved and their understanding, of which a definition will be provided from the existing literature relating to labour studies and privacy. This pair of principles would allow for a holistic perspective on privacy and private life as enablers of fundamental labour freedoms. In fact, these principles should be aimed not only as employees’ rights or employers’ obligations, but above all as compliance principles with fundamental labour rights applicable to third parties providing software and hardware. Explainability and understanding would act transversally, balancing at its source (providers or employers) developments and implementations of surveillance impacting fundamental labour rights.
Evenementstitel19th International Conference in Commemoration of Marco Biagi: Work Beyond the Pandemic. Towards a Human-Centred Recovery
LocatieModena, ItalyToon op kaart
Mate van erkenningInternational