From access to understanding: Collective data governance for workers

08 May 2023

European Labour Law Journal

Calacci, D., & Stein, J. (2023). From access to understanding: Collective data governance for workers. European Labour Law Journal, 14(2), 253–282.

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Regulating data collection and use in the workplace is now more a matter of regulating working conditions than data protection. This article argues that existing data protection law fails workers for precisely this reason. We examine how workers currently use data protection law, labour law, and technology to access and leverage the data they produce at work and identify key ways in which current regulation falls short. Existing regulations primarily aim to protect worker privacy, an approach that ignores the fact that data use now often defines the fundamental conditions of work, particularly in the gig economy. This is because a key limitation of modern data protection law for workers is its myopic focus on the individual ‘data subject’, whose rights to data stem from a right to privacy or data protection. Instead, data regulation in the workplace requires a framework that acknowledges the core interest workers have in accessing their data: to collectively exert greater agency and control at work. We argue that workplace data regulation should largely be a matter of workplace governance and worker co-determination, an approach rooted in workers’ rights, to negotiate the terms of their employment agreements and specific working environments.

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