EXPERT VIEWS - Gig workers to privacy laws: U.S. voters weigh in on tech issues

by Avi Asher-Schapiro | @AASchapiro | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 5 November 2020 10:15 GMT

App-based gig worker Jesus Barra stands on his car during a demonstration outside Los Angeles City Hall to urge voters to vote no on Proposition 22, a November ballot measure that would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., October 8, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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From drivers' rights to surveillance and election disinformation, the Nov. 3 U.S. election tested a number of digital rights issues

By Avi Asher-Schapiro

Nov 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - From drivers' rights to surveillance and election disinformation, the Nov. 3 U.S. election tested a number of digital rights issues.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation spoke to five tech and privacy experts about the key measures they are tracking:

1. GIG WORKERS IN CALIFORNIA - Amos Toh, senior researcher, artificial intelligence and human rights, Human Rights Watch

"The passage of Prop 22 poses the risk that gig workers remain vulnerable to unpredictable reductions and fluctuations in their earnings that jeopardize their livelihoods when gig companies use black box algorithms to calculate their pay.

The rights to a decent living and safe and healthy working conditions are internationally recognized human rights that should be guaranteed to all workers."

2. SURVEILLANCE IN MICHIGAN - Albert Fox Cahn, founder, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.)

"While the presidential vote in Michigan may be one of the most closely divided in history, Tuesday was a clear bi-partisan win for privacy.

Nearly 90% of Michigan voters supported amending the state constitution to make clear that our electronic devices and communications are protected from warrantless police searches.

At a time when so much divides this country, it's clear that Democrats and Republicans broadly agree that the government's electronic surveillance powers have gone too far."

3. ELECTION DISINFORMATION - Jennifer Brody, legislative manager, Access Now

"Platforms are taking some steps to flag disinformation, but we'll see a lot more misleading content before we know the final election result.

We need to be patient, accept that accurate vote counts take time in a democracy, and, in the meantime, ensure we are vigilant in protecting ourselves and our community from manipulation online."

4. CALIFORNIA PRIVACY LAW - Jacob Snow, technology and civil liberties attorney, ACLU of Northern California

"Proposition 24 appears to have passed, despite its deep flaws, and sends a clear message from California voters to the California legislature that they expect and demand action to protect their privacy and safeguard their fundamental privacy rights.

Now is the time for the California legislature to build on Proposition 24 to make sure companies get permission before using or sharing our personal information, prohibit companies from charging us more for exercising our fundamental rights, and impose substantial consequences on companies that break the law.

Californians will not — and should not — accept anything less."

5. BODY CAM FOOTAGE IN OHIO - David Licate, professor of criminal justice studies, University of Akron

"Now that the citizens of Akron have demonstrated their expectation of transparency and expediency with regard to the release of BWC (body worn cameras) video in cases where officers use force that results in serious injury or death, the real work begins.

It can be difficult to convert an idea into good policy. It will be interesting to see how City Council balances the ideals of justice for victims of violence and transparency with the practicalities of exemptions required under public records law and the integrity of investigations."

(Reporting by Avi Asher-Schapiro @AASchapiro, Editing by Zoe Tabary. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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