Maria Luciano

Maria Luciano

Maria Luciano

It has been a busy month for engagement, but it is always remarkable how discussing with others can teach us and help us challenge ourselves. You can read event writeups for the following:

Book Launch: The Quantified Worker, by Ifeoma Ajunwa

As I continued to think about workers’ rights through the lens of data governance, I attended this book talk hosted by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. I came into contact with Ifeoma Ajunwa’s work last year, so it was very exciting to learn about her newest project.

Ajunwa argues that digital Taylorism is now focusing on quantifying workers - what is an ideal worker for this specific job? -, and moving away from the new Taylorism, which focused on quantifying job tasks. It was in this movement that automated hiring systems were created, therefore aiming to profile and search for “the best worker,” as opposed to the mainstream narrative that these systems would diversify work systems.

A look into how inequality historically defined working practices also explains why these systems can replicate patterns of oppression. Many management and accounting practices were created with the plantation systems, as a way to quantify productivity. By continuing to rely on those to define who “the best workers” are, we are perpetuating exploitative dynamics, which are now being amplified through automated systems.

Apart from adding the book to my reading list, this webinar sparked some personal reflections regarding how well-equipped I am to reflect and work on data and technology issues without solid theoretical training on inequality and history. After all, as we frequently say at CbD, everything is about power.

Meanwhile, in the Brazilian Congress…

The Chamber of Deputies have started discussing the Complementary Bill No. 234/2023, which establishes the General Data Empowerment Law, a regulatory framework that legally ensures the monetization of personal data in favor of citizens. According to the bill, the main objective of the Brazilian Data Monetization Ecosystem is to ensure the inalienable right of ownership over personal data, whether generated or provided by the data subject through “access and use of online electronic platforms, internet applications, marketplaces, portals, and sites,” among others.

In other words, the bill creates a market for citizens’ personal information, allowing them to sell this data to companies and, in return, obtain economic benefits such as discounts on products or remuneration. As mentioned in the project’s text, users will be able to sell information such as browsing and purchasing history on the internet to companies in the “financial sector, complementary pension, private insurance, supplementary health, e-commerce, air transport, and general retail.”

By giving financial compensation in return for data, the only actors that would be empowered by this bill are private companies, as they would have facilitated access to data about economically vulnerable people, supposedly under the lawful basis of consent. The initiative also ignores that data protection is now a fundamental constitutional right under the Brazilian Constitution, as well as data’s relational qualities and the potential collective harms resulting from data usage.

The bill will now be discussed and analysed by different thematic committees (it is currently at the Consumers Defense Committee), and, afterwards, put to vote. It is something to keep an eye on and illustrates the current state of data discussions amongst most Brazilian legislators. Thank god for civil society.

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