Workplace Monitoring: Data collection practices and emerging risks for low wage workers in India

Workers are disadvantaged by the relative ease with which employers can combine data from several sources.

Digital technologies have made workplace monitoring more comprehensive and widespread. Technological advances like big data analytics, communication capture, mobile devices, and biometrics allow employers to monitor workers well after they have left the workplace. The COVID19 pandemic has forced many white collar workers to work from home, while essential workers are forced to continue working in high risk conditions. New forms of monitoring have been introduced and justified under this new relaity. It has also legitimised the collection of certain health related information under the guise of public health concerns.

This paper analyses data protection issues related to low-income workers in India. It draws on expert interviews and focuses on the experiences of gig workers and garment factory workers in India. Data protection and surveillance issues for low-wage workers is an emerging area of research and this paper serves as a starting point for discussion by identifying key issues for future research and policy attention.

Authors

Zothan Mawii

Zothan Mawii is a Research Fellow at Tandem Research. Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, work, and gender in the global south. She is currently working on a project exploring Indian women’s experiences of working in the digital economy. She has also been working closely with civil society organisations and gig workers’ unions to advocate for better labour protections and working standards. Her past work examines the impact of digital labour platforms in emerging economies and involved extensive fieldwork in India, South Africa, and Myanmar. She holds a MA in Digital Culture and Society from King's College London and a BA (Hons) in English from St. Stephen's College, DU.

Iona Eckstein

Iona Eckstein works on the Future of Work & Learning initiative at Tandem. Her work mainly focuses on the intersection between technology and labour, specifically; the evolution of the platform economy, digital labour, workplace surveillance, and more recently, the impact of Covid-19 on workers. She is also passionate about feminist perspectives on the future of work, and how women and other marginalised groups can benefit from technological advances. She has conducted fieldwork in India, Nepal, Tanzania and Denmark, and has a B.Sc in Sociology from the University of Bristol and an M.Sc in Global Development from the University of Copenhagen.

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