Why Monitoring Workers Could End Up Backfiring

Watching employees' every move has huge implications for the quality of life of workers, and their families.

Low-wage hourly work has never been the most stable way to earn a living, but new surveillance technology is making conditions worse for hourly workers, according to technology researcher and Data & Society founder Danah Boyd.  

Boyd and Rishad Tobaccowala, chairman of the Tobaccowala Foundation, spoke to The Huffington Post's Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday.

"We think we can make people behave in a certain way that we want, and we don't take into account the real human costs," said Boyd.

She mentioned on-call scheduling, which optimizes workers' schedules for retailers based on data collected at each store. The technology, in turn, often doesn't let those workers know when they will have a shift until a day or two before they're supposed to work (and, sometimes, even lets them know the day of). 

Research shows that optimizing retail not only impacts workers, but impacts their kids, who do more poorly in school, said Boyd. 

"Pushing for efficiency is destabilizing low-wage workers." And thus, she implied, when we think more holistically about how technology impacts businesses, the efficiencies don't actually offset the huge negative impacts on employees.

It's very possible that this technology is actually bad for society.  

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