IT for Change and National Law University of India
Globally, there is recognition that decent work in platform workplaces is predicated on legal guarantees for fair algorithmic management, ensuring equitable outcomes for workers. Unfortunately, India currently lacks a regulatory framework to protect gig workers from rights violations stemming from arbitrary and opaque algorithmic decision-making practices of digital labor platforms. Gig workers’ unions have often expressed the sub-optimal recourse available to them for dispute resolution and grievance redress due to their inability to challenge the algorithmic black box, as reverse engineering is not always possible without transparency and accountability guarantees. The lack of attention to worker data rights in India’s recently enacted personal data protection legislation also raises a slew of concerns about privacy violations, predatory profiling, and algorithmic nudging for carving out new bottom-of-pyramid markets in credit and microinsurance products by powerful platform companies.
Against this backdrop, IT for Change and the Centre for Labour Studies, National Law University of India, Bengaluru are organizing a virtual expert roundtable on 17 November 2023 in order to understand the contours of an effective legal framework for safeguarding workers’ rights in the context of algorithmic management on digital labor platforms. The roundtable brings an opportunity to influence sub-national governments, including the Government of Karnataka that the Centre for Labour Studies, National Law University of India is advising on state-specific regulation to protect workers of on-demand platforms in the food delivery and ride-hailing sectors. In this regard, we would like to bring together scholar-practitioners, trade union representatives, lawyers, and civil society organizations from India and other countries where similar public debates are gathering force to a short meeting, and deliberate upon what the law can and must do vis-a-vis effective algorithmic governance.
Key issues the roundtable will examine include:
1. New forms of rights protection concerning data rights - workers’ rights to be heard, appeal, grievance redressal, explainability, privacy protection, data access to and disclosure of their own data, conception of workers’ rights vis-a-vis algorithms
2. New institutional norms and procedures - processes for auditability of algorithms by labor boards/commissioners, mandatory consultation with workers/unions in algorithmic design and deployment, and so on.
3. Specific transparency and accountability safeguards - corporate obligations for disclosure of algorithmic decision-making parameters, notification of changes, balancing disclosure requirements with trade secret protection, mandatory limiting of the right of algorithms to track vis-a-vis informed consent of workers, and so on.
4. Standards-setting for algorithms used by digital labor platforms - what standards could be designed in this regard? Who should be the agency vetting these standards and providing oversight?