Response to the White House OSTP’s Request for Information on Automated Worker Surveillance and Management

Brian J. Chen
Livia Garofalo
Alexandra Mateescu
Aiha Nguyen
Eve Zelickson

June 21, 2023 — On May 1, 2023 — which was, not coincidentally, International Workers’ Day — the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced that it was seeking information on how employers are using automated tools to surveil, monitor, and manage workers.

Drawing from our research on worker surveillance, algorithmic management, emerging sites of employer-consumer surveillance, and essential workers’ experiences during the pandemic, Data & Society submitted a comment to OSTP. In it, we highlight the grave risks that automated surveillance and management tools present to workers. Increasingly, employers are using automated systems in unlawful ways that undermine workers’ health, safety, pay, autonomy, legal rights, and collective power. We call on the Biden-Harris Administration to use existing laws to curtail these harms. 

Specifically, our comment calls on the US federal government to:

  • Stop companies from using automated technologies to dispossess workers of their labor rights, 
  • Clarify standards to make sure that workers are fully compensated when their pay is algorithmically managed, 
  • Issue guidance on the effects of surveillance and monitoring on workers’ physical and mental health, 
  • Protect workers’ right to organize against the chilling effect of near-constant, invasive surveillance, and
  • Investigate the federal government’s own use of automated technologies that degrade working conditions.

As the White House seeks to advance equity and worker voice in federal technology policy, we urge executive agencies to act swiftly to redress the harms resulting from automated worker surveillance and management.