Algorithmic monitoring is ‘damaging psychological well being’ of UK employees | Synthetic intelligence (AI)

Monitoring workers and setting performance targets through algorithms is detrimental to workers’ mental health and needs to be controlled by new laws, according to a group of MPs and colleagues.

A “law on accountability for algorithms” would ensure that companies evaluate the effect of performance-oriented regimes such as monitoring queues in supermarkets or guidelines for hourly deliveries for delivery drivers, the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) said on the future of work.

“In particular, end-to-end monitoring and goal setting technologies are associated with marked negative effects on mental and physical well-being as workers are exposed to the extreme pressures of constant real-time micromanagement and automated assessment,” the APPG members said in their report, the New Frontier: Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace.

The report recommends the introduction of a new law on algorithms which, it says, “sets a clear direction to ensure that AI puts people first”. It warns that “the use of algorithmic surveillance, management and surveillance technologies, taking on both new and traditional advisory functions, has increased significantly during the pandemic”.

Under the law, workers would be given the right to be involved in the design and use of algorithmic systems in which computers make and execute decisions about fundamental aspects of a person’s work – including, in some cases, the assignment of shifts and wages, or whether they a job in the first place.

The report also recommended that public sector companies and employers complete algorithmic impact assessments to iron out problems caused by the systems, and the new umbrella body on digital regulation, the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum, to expand certifications and guidance on the use of AI and algorithms at work.

MEPs added that the use of AI and algorithms has created a sense of injustice and lack of independence among workers who are also unaware of the role of personal information in making decisions about the performance of their jobs. The regulation of social media and video platforms will also be included in the Online Security Act, which will come into force at the end of next year.

David Davis MP, APPG Conservative Chairman on Future of Work, said, “Our research shows how AI technologies have spread beyond the gig economy to control what, who and how work is done. It is clear that algorithmic systems, if not properly regulated, can have detrimental effects on health and wealth. “

Clive Lewis, a Labor member of the APPG, added, “Our report shows why and how the government needs to come up with robust proposals for regulating AI. There are significant regulatory loopholes at the individual and corporate level that harm people and communities across the country. “

The APPG investigation was launched by the Institute for the Future of Work, a research facility called the Amazonian Era, following the publication of a report on the role of AI and algorithms in modern work in May this year. The report focused on retail workers and included testimony from delivery drivers and cashiers who complained about monitoring systems and targets that created high levels of anxiety.

“Many professional drivers sometimes skip a red light or brake too hard because they are pressed for time and often have to use their cell phones while driving,” said a supermarket delivery driver in the report. The IFoW study also included statements from production employees who had to log 95% of their shift work in order to be able to plan their working day more intensively.

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