Companies have attempted to use algorithms in order to improve the performance of their employees. In the case of Uber, it has pulled certain psychological levers in order to increase its supply of drivers in certain times and locations. One algorithm, called forward dispatch, offers a new ride to a drive before the current one is over. It has been explained that this algorithm “causes drivers to stay on the road substantially longer during busy periods,” which is obviously in the interest of the company. However, the New York Times raises the issue that one can look at the notion of forward dispatch and claim that “it overrides self-control.” Indeed, the idea that algorithms are influencing the mindset of the user is not new – Netflix and Instagram implement algorithms to influence their app users, and it is clear Uber drivers have been influenced (at least too a degree) by algorithms implemented by their parent company.
What are the legal implications, if any, for companies who use algorithms to influence the behaviour of their employees? Will we be able to protect workers from algorithms that incentivise them to do something, but have little enforcement power?
I believe this question can be extended to any gamification process, at work or in other contexts. The key legal problem is probably that people agree to do what the algorithm says. An other way to frame it, maybe more polemic, would be to say: can we protect people from algorithms that incentivize them to do something, but which have no enforcement power?