Can your boss spy on you at work? Right to privacy in the digital workplace

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Can your boss spy on you at work? Right to privacy in the digital workplace
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Do you have to abandon your right to privacy every morning at the doors of your workplace? Can your employer monitor private chats with your family? Based on research projects at the Centre for Internet and Human Rights, we will unpack the issue of digital surveillance at work and discuss regulatory gaps and potential policy responses.
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welcome to this talk and and my name is donna and Killian and orders this is a very happy to have you you hear and see that you're interested in this topic which for us is very important in practice in the workplace and we want to tell you today the story of our research project and then we started working at the Center for human rights in 2015 the center and the state are in uh the research center at the European University having of it in Frankfurt or order on the Polish German border an hour away from Berlin and our research shows that we've been presented there is still going on but we want to show you how it evolved and so you can also become involved and share your experiences with us and the reason we are interested in workplace surveillance is because it's a very concrete forms of surveillance that is very close to people and everybody has a story to share about and what we gonna do in this talk is 1st talk about the legal and ethical challenges of workplace civilians then we got a pretty draft out what is actually new year what is the new level that we see in workplace today give a very precise example of uh for workplace events in the but from economy and and then talk about what we think it's still very important to think about privacy in the workplace even though process into a lost and we will conclude with some thoughts on yeah others will metric on what what we what we see in the future so when we started working on this project our central question was a legal 1 can your boss expired Europe and at at work so we were and interested in them and in the legal aspects of privacy and actually uh the story began 10 years
ago with Bob and Bob and obelisk was an engineer and an IT company in
in Bucharest this is not boredom of course but just another guy with a funny most best but this analyst would work is look like in 2007 and was actually
Friday uh the 13th of July 2007 when but analysts told by his boss is that he's uh you have been spying on him and he has been reading his own and this and messenger chats and you then the balls showed him a 45 page transcript of these tests and while now but then was actually chatting with his skill and his brother about his and some very very private stuff about health and sex
life problems so where obviously was not happy about it and in a couple weeks later he lost his job because the boss had a final proof that about and was using his personal pride in his company computer for personal purposes and obviously but felt that it wasn't fair in our own especially he had no idea that the boss had the capacity and ability to do that so he went to court so was it legal for Bogdan's boss to look at the contents of his tax well the short answer is we don't know last year we looked with our colleague John Stevens and the legal aspects of this case and we found out that actually it's still not clear for Bogdan and 4 million of workers around Europe the 1st the remaining courts ruled in this case that actually the boss of them
was right and so he took it could he took the case to Strasbourg to the European Court invoking Article 8 and the right to respect of uh private and family life home and correspondence that initially the ruling of the seed was actually not in favor of Mason the court said
that the company's interest in this case in profit and productivity were more worth more than the protection of the right to privacy of that individual fortune lead for all of us but then appealed that ruling and and we're still working it was still waiting for with the Grand Chamber of the Court is promising but think about it this case started 10 years ago a whole decade has passed the entire workplaces gone through a tremendous transformation MSN Messenger disappeared and now our favorite way to is stymied workers Facebook and and the technology of super fast and law is more incredibly small and we still don't know if the boss was off limits in this case it this seems 3 freight straightforward that the Blues boss should have notified what then that he was a lot of lot and wonder his chats and it also seems pretty clear that there are certain very private aspects of life like health and sex life that should be extra protective and that's actually case in general data protection regulation which will be implemented in the European Union next year the draft we still don't know and we have to wait for the final rule so this technology of work recently when surveillance developing so quickly and surveillance is so cheap and easy to use and almost ubiquitous and we cannot wait for the law to catch up we need to also ask ourselves whether the ethical standards basically whether it's right or wrong for boss to look at the contents and to look to spiders at work so how do we define of what is off limits I always this thing that is really good to look at the cases that actually shot past the most than the cases where we find that the surveillance was intrusive or unjustified and for example radiate disturbed by the idea of CCTV camera in the bathroom but we finally find quite normal that we have to click Our idea returned walk to do to door clicks in similar vein we might think that the boss is it's Fairford evolves to process data about our working hours but maybe we don't want the Boston monitor our help what makes it even more complicated than is there
the notion of what is right and wrong and often depends on culture so we actually want to look at the difference is that the cultural
differences between Germany and Poland were from but also the differences for example between and Europe and Asia and specifically the Philippines where a lot of call centers and located but another thing is company culture when you sign a job contract you often agreed to certain level of surveillance that's inherent in 2 . 4 2 could top their companies where you have to leave the private phone and reception companies were it's not allowed to use Facebook at work and the other companies where the use of Facebook is welcome or even that's simply part of your job and I think that's really changing is that this paradigm in which we well leave our privacy when we walk through the door of the workplace and then we get it back where we go home and is changing by the fact that there's more and more mobile working so you might be working from a constraint we might be even working from the better so the work of the lines between work and private life and the lives of the learning and we might even feel that the feelings of privacy and intimacy are harder and harder to get so the brown line here is that we need to better define both uh legally and socially what is off-limits for us and for different workers in this new digitize environments not only the money but solution culturally and then we think that a good starting point is to listen to workers to what or shots and the because this might be an indication that something is actually changing that 1st let's take a step back here and ask what is actually
knew about this but because that's a fair question that always comes up because what this events is an inherent part of work and was always there you can imagine a modern workplace without having somebody monitoring and controlling what you do that too big to be very fundamental that goes back
to division of labor basically out so as soon as we started separating aligned production and the very small parts we invented managers and the only job of managers is to monitor and control what other people are doing and then you have the workplace variance so I already an inherently building and the and the the and this is something that workers to accept or at least have to accept and it's also and to some extent in their interest also to be able to prove that they work well and for the company to be making money most workers agreed that is good to have some kind of control and then all would would come 1st G Amine anything what is new here is that we that we have a new digital tools and we already have super in ways of tool exists to the cameras a truck test in some jobs you have to pass a polygraph test to guess for example when you wanna get security clearance for when you work for the government on a high-level position but so many workplaces today a fully digital and every keystroke every movement you make leaves the tracing can be monitored and some cement products you make regular screenshots of of people's screens in the office count most experimented some or a capture webcam images of and all these kinds of suffer exist and and is out there but I what is even more new what what is the new phase that we now looking into without project and where we have an even more invasive or you our own what new quality surveillance basically is not only the tools that are changing but the entire model of management and the changing relationship between Boston workers and more people are notice walking in fully automated work environments that until a new form of racing management of the surveillance has become a new form of management and to make them more more clear more precise we wanna take the example of the platform economy and later on the various city example of dilute the rules for delivery so if you are gonna platform everything you do is monitor and track think of companies like at and be or help me for Amazon Mechanical Turk task rather than so on were for example what is it set of blood drivers in the private cars getting directions about where to go only by the or deliver rules and concepts writers on their own bikes getting directions about where to pick up and drop all the food only by area or taken Amazon Mechanical Turk and the self-employed contractors sitting in their living room most likely and get assignments and feedback about what they do only by the platform software that is used so the point is less forms provide you a fully algorithmic work environment and to some significant extent the algorithm here becomes the boss and that is not a side effect but an inherent and fundamental principle of the business model if you work this is an at full collection of data about workers becomes are invisible and unavoidable at the same time and this means that the suffered takes some classical meant management functions so the thing goes the worker being the little ball that is kept the balance and the matched in the right direction by the platform and then some scholars even came up with the term for this is called algorithmic management where so for algorithms I assume and you'll see managerial functions and shape the work environment altogether
but and all the platforms have certain algorithmic controls built in such as those for example rating functions where the famous five-star rating out so not even the the employer sigh gets to control the workers but also the customer so much much more because you can click and you can you can give a 5 or a 1 one-stop and for whatever the little writer just dead and that is not to say that is not humans building these platforms offers of course right so when I say this is management by the algorithm of course the algorithm was conceived and built by some humans before but there in the daily work environments programmers don't interfere more so then it's really just about the platform for the algorithm on managing the workers so conceptually
speaking we have a new mode of managing workers and we used to have traditionally as a dichotomy between hierarchy and a market arity of a clear line of command think of a government bureaucracy of from the top down that's all some managed and the other it's the other side of the market we have a price for labor and you contractors and the price is the coordinating factor and now we want argue and that's in line with other ones skulls out there this
algorithm make management I is a new form a kind of a hybrid model that is maybe not in between but just a new a new concept to grasp if you're talking about the platform economy media but so this is the rather theoretical description of of why this is new energy 1 is going to give you some more examples about gamut is but little more precise uh decide rhythmic this and management by looking at the case of the yes so in order to see how this works I started talking and to deliver the writers in Germany and in the UK and I conducted 1st interviews and it turns out to be a fascinating case study of what privacy and autonomy mean and these automated work environments so just to give an idea bike couriers or messengers or ideas as the the writers of these here in Berlin like to call themselves and are people who like autonomy and they're when young well educated
and very mobile and flexible and and they like this business model because they can
choose their own working hours as and it's a OK job as long as it pays well many if you choose to be self-employed because of some of the
entrepreneurs and bytes and theoretically the act makes a work easier still don't have to talk about they simply log into the AP and wait for in order to come up and the 1st thing I aligned with this project is that it doesn't really make sense to talk to them about privacy and the privacy in the and they know that the apple doesn't have access to any person or an intimate in info it just tracks and their location and how they get from point a to B and how fast they work and so writers will say things like they're not doing the wrong with this information or the say of already knows that and then the personal data that is collected about them they can get in forms of stats especially out there evaluated and based on how based on how fast they're right and they can be fired for that's that's sometimes the steps are made available to them so they compare themselves and to increase other workers as the gamification element of this job but that they actually care more about the other type of data not a personal data but that the aggregated an anonymized data so these companies you know the platform companies are collecting massive amount of data to optimize to cut costs and also potentially to train an artificial intelligence and this too so these writers can be 1 replaced by robots for drones and and the workers also want to see these that's the same way that the company sees this that's why I'm because we want to know where it gets busy and which times of the business of the week are the busiest ones which areas of the city will be busier so they can optimize better there and they're working hours and so when you think about it what they actually want as well as every
worker they want stability predictability and decent pay but they also want have the feeling of control which comes with having access to that information and issue particularly out of control and for taking upset when and when the algorithm and keeps changing so there these tiny shifts trying to extend all agree that can have a huge impact on their working conditions and and order
pay just to give an example recently 1 of the apps changed the system from picking couple hour shifts to 1 hour shifts so you can only sign up to work in our then you have to wait for an hour and in our work gain or something like that so this can have a huge impact and year daily life so the question is really not the does the boss spiral you at work is rather how much control over your everyday life we really have and the last thing I would like to share from from these interviews is that may don't know what of worry so much about the privacy of the AP but they certainly understand that there is a need for private space for them to meet and the private space for them to communicate of course this is a very important especially when you want to organize this is a very different type of work a lot of people are migrants found himself employed in on average the working conditions and on and also the company keeps over hiring to keep kind of the concept of the workers competing against each other so when we want to move to break and to break that pattern and organized around and pressured for better working conditions being that facing the Parker and cafe and they also knew that space and digital friends as an and they will not communicate to organize protest over companies and chat but they will probably use some kind of encrypted services so it seems that even at this very digitized workspaces privacy is not bad is just that the meaning of it it's evolving and now that we looked at this very specific example of the platform economy on let's look at why we think that talk about privacy in that regard in some way to a set the seems like privacy is lost right there is but we think it's still very important time to think about priors in the workplace or even more so 1st of all our because surveillance of the workplace is a testing ground for surveillance novel by in other spheres of life in other fields are so it is not to be overly dystopian but you can see that historically that surveys techniques have 1st always emerged in in these kind of work environments and is not by coincidence that 1 of the biggest someone most prominent scholars of surveillance the URI just call you look also at house of the work in factories and and and and and presence but also in factories I'm going to just to see what the veins is and how it works and what it does to people but but here in the blood from economy we have a an even more intensified situation where we have at least like 3 levels of of deep assymetry at that make talking about privacy more important 1st year of the classical economic imbalance between the employer of the platform with a lot of kept a lot of resources and the workers that have less less resources and 2nd of all the legal imbalance where nobody wants seems to be willing to hire people that back in the day you had employers that were also willing to take on some responsibility for people employed that that make the actual money for them on the platform is for the case anymore so that we have the liability really shifted to the weakest of the weakest member of the production and 3rd is the information imbalance drawn already talked about that and that 1 side has access to a a massive amount of data that is collected on the platform on your site does not and that also creates a huge a symmetry and information of and then lastly but most importantly initially privacy is a basis for other rights most importantly other labor rights and that's the same exact same concept you always have been process society the privacy in order to an actor able enjoy other fundamental rights and in the workplace most important is the freedom of
association that is work the freedom to form unions so for example in Germany where usually I have co decision-making bodies in large companies employers are not allowed to monitor the entrance of the work Council with a camera because that could deter people from going to and so you would have a chilling effect on labor rights if there's too much the variance of the specific work on so we need to make sure that you at work there's enough privacy for people to exercise of other human rights and but just telling people while you have a choice you can work this company or that 1 that's not really helping much that found this option either because especially the platform economy people don't have the choice and they're much more it much more start with a certain platform that there before because the reputation at is this is bound to the platform the in the yeah so that's what we think privacy is still very important but we also see that privacy doesn't mean a lot to process to people as a concept is an important
legal concept but it's not
necessarily a concept that tells the very telling for that workers can relate to so we think also think about other ideas of the terms that might be more might resonate better with workers for example autonomy and control so that's something that that that you can feel more in your daily life you have autonomy here or or do I was in control is the name URI other and look at specific cases of discrimination and because that's also something that everybody can can share a story about how you were discriminated and then the status to privacy comes after that so we wanna close up with the question of what next what should we do about this well obviously as researchers we think that more scrutiny of this topic is needed and we always that I like to think that we should look for both of the technology and the legal norms as well as the social norms so in terms of law you look can obviously see that it's important to monitor the changes that are happening in the European court of human rights are in general data protection regulations and it's also very worldwide to look at the text so study the devices for they actually work and study due the software the new software used for management vertical and then finally studied organs and how the holiday and hold out whether the affair with a daily and then non-discriminatory at work and and as and as can is that it's is also important to look at the whole the norms change maybe not only privacy but other norms that are sailing here like eponymy control or furnace but what we do as workers while we can use another device that we know of cases where people did not and our belief that but that's not a long-term solution for sure and so how do we resist the land and when when you're boss is an operator so you can of course Triton is asking for help and this and privacy in the workplace has often been employed in case of the collective bargaining process but there are many places where platform economies work but unions are not present and and because either they don't they're not able to work they don't want to audits and countries reunions are just not strong enough and we can think of other creative methods to close to use collective action Annex actually when you think about it going on strike when your boss now has never been
easier you simply don't log n and this is exactly what happened in the case of the liberal writers in London and 1 day they got this modification saying
that you no longer going to be paper hour even now going to be paid for delivering and if you don't if you agree Click here if you don't agreed on log and so they just quickly start communicated and they decided not to look and and this was the former strike that accidental and record the platform and the restaurants that collaborate with the liberal and our network so when you think about it
on the displays ation investor workplace also gives you new tools to to mobilize and fight for your rights but of course finally as citizens we also have pressure on governments to pay more attention to this issue because these laws and that are supposed to protect us our no longer adequate and we have to we have to find other maybe more quicker ways like more like guidelines and regulations of of our ethical standards that these companies should follow so our rights are so protected the bottom line when I take out most from this project that is still going on is that if we want a workplace that or not that feels right for a human to be in the and and that serves human needs not only in the technology itself or profit we needed a private space of work for a private space where we can maybe simply relax for a
while and be together with other workers but also private place where we can organize where things going wrong like that digital version of that work counseling room where there is no season because the camera workers needs also maybe exactly these private communication channels where I do know that the boss is not listening so we all know this as research will keep going and evolving and will contribute
to make the workplace a virtual not more humane and our human feels right in we would like you to to maybe share with us your opinions or maybe private experiences from workplace that would move in the woods and hope was developed as part of yesterday we we don't have time for questions and because only half an hour slot but if you feel like sharing something you know us or just come from thank you thank
you very much and I'm too young for pointing out this critical issues I get them online for sure you the
world and the