The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced it is taking a look at employee surveillance programs.
Automated employee surveillance gained widespread adoption during the pandemic as record numbers of employees worked remotely. Companies that were eager to maintain a level of control turned to a plethora of surveillance and monitoring option, but the OSTP is concerned about the impact they have on workers.
Employers are increasingly investing in technologies that monitor and track workers, and making workplace decisions based on that information. According to an investigation by The New York Times last year, eight of the 10 largest private U.S. employers tracked individual workers to assess their productivity.
The OSTP cites multiple examples, such as nurses being required to wear RFID badges to track their location, ride-sharing drivers whose speed and location are tracked, office workers with keyloggers on their computers, and more.
The OSTP is requesting information to see what impact these measures are having on employees.
While these technologies can benefit both workers and employers in some cases, they can also create serious risks to workers, which is why the Biden-Harris Administration’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights underscores the importance of technology developers building in protections from design to deployment. 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.
The information will be used to help create policies that “create an economy that supports good-paying jobs, where workers are treated with respect and dignity, and have the opportunity to form and join unions.”