Collective bargaining on digital platforms and data stewardship

Paper by Astha Kapoor: “… there is a need to think of exploitation on platforms not only through the lens of labour rights but also that of data rights. In the current context, it is impossible to imagine well-being without more agency on the way data are collected, stored and used. It is imperative to envision structures through which worker communities and representatives can be more involved in determining their own data lives on platforms. There is a need to organize and mobilize workers on data rights.

One of the ways in which this can be done is through a mechanism of community data stewards who represent the needs and interests of workers to their platforms, thus negotiating and navigating the data-based decisions. This paper examines the need for data rights as a critical requirement for worker well-being in the platform economy and the ways in which it can be actualized. It argues, given that workers on platforms produce data through collective labour on and off the platform, that worker data are a community resource and should be governed by representatives of workers who can negotiate with platforms on the use of that data for workers and for the public interest. The paper analyses the opportunity for a community data steward mechanism that represents workers’ interests and intermediates on data issues, such as transparency and accountability, with offline support systems. And is also a voice to online action to address some of the injustices of the data economy. Thus, a data steward is a tool through which workers better control their data—consent, privacy and rights—better and organize online. Essentially, it is a way forward for workers to mobilize collective bargaining on data rights.

The paper covers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers’ rights and well-being. It explores the idea of community data rights on the platform economy and why collective bargaining on data is imperative for any kind of meaningful negotiation with technology companies. The role of a community data steward in reclaiming workers’ power in the platform economy is explained, concluding with policy recommendations for a community data steward structure in the Indian context….(More)”.