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This content will become publicly available on May 31, 2023

Title: Weaving Privacy and Power: On the Privacy Practices of Labor Organizers in the U.S. Technology Industry
We investigate the privacy practices of labor organizers in the computing technology industry and explore the changes in these practices as a response to remote work. Our study is situated at the intersection of two pivotal shifts in workplace dynamics: (a) the increase in online workplace communications due to remote work, and (b) the resurgence of the labor movement and an increase in collective action in workplaces— especially in the tech industry, where this phenomenon has been dubbed the tech worker movement. The shift of work-related communications to online digital platforms in response to an increase in remote work is creating new opportunities for and risks to the privacy of workers. These risks are especially significant for organizers of collective action, with several well-publicized instances of retaliation against labor organizers by companies. Through a series of qualitative interviews with 29 tech workers involved in collective action, we investigate how labor organizers assess and mitigate risks to privacy while engaging in these actions. Among the most common risks that organizers experienced are retaliation from their employer, lateral worker conflict, emotional burnout, and the possibility of information about the collective effort leaking to management. Depending on the nature and source of the risk, organizers more » use a blend of digital security practices and community-based mechanisms. We find that digital security practices are more relevant when the threat comes from management, while community management and moderation are central to protecting organizers from lateral worker conflict. Since labor organizing is a collective rather than individual project, individual privacy and collective privacy are intertwined, sometimes in conflict and often mutually constitutive. Notions of privacy that solely center individuals are often incompatible with the needs of organizers, who noted that safety in numbers could only be achieved when workers presented a united front to management. Based on our interviews, we identify key topics for future research, such as the growing prevalence of surveillance software and the needs of international and gig worker organizers. We conclude with design recommendations that can help create safer, more secure and more private tools to better address the risks that organizers face. « less
Authors:
Award ID(s):
1704369
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10346634
Journal Name:
Computer supported cooperative work CSCW
ISSN:
1573-7551
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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