Platform Workers, Data Dominion and Challenges to Work-life Quality

Paper by Mabel Choo and Mark Findlay: “Originally this short reflection was intended to explore the relationship between the under-regulated labour environment of gig workers and their appreciation of work-life quality. It was never intended as a comprehensive governance critique of what is variously known as independent, franchised, or autonomous service delivery transactions facilitated through platform providers. Rather it was to represent a suggestive snapshot of how workers in these contested employment contexts viewed the relevance of regulation (or its absence) and the impact that new forms of regulation might offer for work-life quality.

By exploring secondary source commentary on worker experiences and attitudes it became clear that profound information deficits regarding how their personal data was being marketed meant that expecting any detailed appreciation of regulatory need and potentials was unrealistic from such a disempowered workforce. In addition, the more apparent was the practice of the platforms re-using and marketising this data without the knowledge or informed consent of the data subjects (service providers and customers) the more necessary it seemed to factor in this commercialisation when regulatory possibilities are to be considered.

The platform providers have sheltered their clandestine use of worker data (whether it be from pervasive surveillance or transaction histories) behind dubious discourse about disruptive economies, non-employment responsibilities, and the distinction between business and private data. In what follows we endeavor to challenge these disempowering interpretations and assertions, while arguing the case that at the very least data subjects need to know what platforms do with the data they produce and have some say in its re-use. In proposing these basic pre-conditions for labour transactions, we hope that work-life experience can be enhanced. Many of the identified needs for regulation and suggestions as to the form it should take are at this point declaratory in the paper, and as such require more empirical modelling to evaluate their potential influences in bettering work-life quality….(More)”