Is your employer monitoring your mouse clicks, keystrokes, or webcam? What about your location or pace of work? If so, the White House wants to hear from you—from the confines of your digitally enabled professional panopticon.
On this fine May Day (a.k.a. International Workers’ Day), the Biden Administration’s Office of Science and Technology Policy has released a public request for information (RFI) regarding worker surveillance and all the various ways employers are attempting to automate productivity tracking.
“Employers are increasingly investing in technologies that monitor and track workers, and making workplace decisions based on that information,” wrote Deidre Mulligan, the OSTP’s deputy chief, in a Monday blogpost. “While these technologies can benefit both workers and employers in some cases, they can also create serious risks to workers.”
The post goes on to outline some of the various harms such surveillance can have. From the White House statement:
The constant tracking of performance can push workers to move too fast on the job, posing risks to their safety and mental health. Monitoring conversations can deter workers from exercising their rights to organize and collectively bargain with their employers. And, when paired with employer decisions about pay, discipline, and promotion, automated surveillance can lead to workers being treated differently or discriminated against.
With the shift to remote employment that came along with the covid-19 pandemic, lots of tech companies and others piloted new efforts to watch their workers. While Amazon and gig-based companies like Uber have been moving towards full-scale surveillance in warehouses and vehicles for years.
At the outset of its newly announced probe, the The OSTP is seeking to collect more information from both workers and employers. The office is hoping to hear some firsthand experiences from people who’ve experienced or deployed such workplace surveillance, as well as people who study the impacts of it. Also, if you have any “ideas for how the federal government should respond to any relevant risks and opportunities,” related to productivity surveillance software and tech, you should feel free to let the government know. Responses to the RFI should be submitted by June 15 via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Federal eRulemaking Portal.