Equitable Growth delivers comment letter responding to FTC’s Advanced Notice of Proposing Rulemaking on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security


The Washington Center for Equitable Growth this week delivered a comment letter responding to the Federal Trade Commission’s Advanced Notice of Proposing Rulemaking on Commercial Surveillance and Data Security. The comment letter responds to many of the FTC’s questions about practices related to commercial surveillance and data security, as well algorithmic management and other automated decision-making systems.

Mounting evidence shows that companies’ decisions in using workplace surveillance and algorithmic decision-making can and do cause immediate and long-term economic and health and safety harms to workers and their families, as well as undermining existing labor and consumer protections and contributing to discriminatory practices and anticompetitive labor markets.

The comment letter discusses key points on the impact of commercial surveillance and algorithmic decision-making on workers and their families, which outline the clear role for the Federal Trade Commission in regulating workplace surveillance and connected practices:

  • Workplace surveillance is widespread in the United States and among U.S. companies, and the potential use of the data it generates is growing as companies and vendors seek new ways to link data and incorporate algorithmic decision-making in work processes.
  • Commercial surveillance is all but impossible for most workers to avoid, both due to its ubiquity and because of the erosion of labor protections and the rise of anticompetitive labor practices that reduce workers’ ability to meaningfully consent to surveillance or bargain over these issues.
  • Evidence also shows that invasive workplace surveillance leads to direct and diffuse harms to workers and undermines other protections or possibilities of fairness. The dangers posed by workplace surveillance fall most heavily on the most vulnerable workers, exacerbating an array of economic inequalities and preventing these workers from challenging invasive practices.
  • Worker monitoring is part of a cycle of fractured work arrangements through which firms de-skill work and misclassify employees, allowing them to pay workers less, sidestep worker protections, and undermine workers’ bargaining ability, ultimately increasing economic inequality and distorting economic growth.
  • The known and potential harms to workers from surveillance and related algorithmic management practices are not justified by gains to workers, companies, or the economy, and in fact undermine existing labor protections and contribute to the growing concentration of corporate power in the United States.

Read the full letter submitted to the Federal Trade Commission.


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