There is the first glimmer of hope that concrete legislation on workers’ digital rights may finally be getting serious consideration – and in one of the most influential states.
Assemblyman Ash Kalra of the California State Assembly introduced the Workplace Technology Accountability Act (AB 1651), a groundbreaking bill backed by a broad coalition of labor and privacy advocacy groups. If enacted, AB 1651 would revolutionize workers’ digital rights, both by limiting the circumstances under which employers can use technology to surveil workers and collect their data, and by giving workers greater input overall in the use of data-driven technologies in the workplace. The bill passed the Labor and Employment Committee soon after it was introduced.
CDT has been concerned in recent years about the rising prevalence of intrusive and harmful uses of data and technology in the workplace. Our report last year on bossware (intensive electronic workplace surveillance and algorithmic management) highlighted both the potential for these systems to harm workers’ health and safety, and the legal and regulatory vacuum that allows such harmful technologies to flourish. Last fall, we highlighted the Berkeley Labor Center’s excellent policy framework, which set out guideposts for regulating data collection, electronic surveillance, and automated decision-making in the workplace.