Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, has called for the establishment of a forum on the technological surveillance of workers; especially surveillance using artificial intelligence and machine learning.
“The growing technological surveillance of workers is a worrying development, and it an issue I have been raising for over two years.
“In March 2021, I raised these concerns with the Minister for Enterprise only to be told that such matters are not covered in terms of employment rights law or employment terms law.
“This morning, the Financial Services Union (FSU) presented new research to the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment on the sophistication and scale of technological surveillance of workers.
“Surveillance of workers throughout their working day is not a new phenomenon, however, in the post-pandemic working world, the nature and scale of technological surveillance has increased significantly.
“Over the past number of years, there have been increased domestic and international reports, from workers and trade unions, of employers profiling workers’ electronic equipment as well using wearable technology to closely monitor workers.
“This surveillance has reached new levels with developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology.
“Reports of the use of AI and machine learning tools to monitor workers activity and body language through wearable technology and cameras in the workplace to deduce performance, attention, focus, whether they are sad, stressed, happy and so forth, and the data provided to managers, is beyond worrying.
“There is a need for the State to get ahead of developments in this area and legislate to protect workers from excessive technological surveillance, especially using AI and machine learning.
“The starting point for this should be the establishment of a Departmental forum, compromising experts in the area and trade unions representing workers whose employers use automated systems to monitor workers, so we can better understand how firms deploy automated technology for worker surveillance.
“This should be the starting point in a journey to investigating, reporting, and delivering legislative protections for workers.”