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Australian law cannot regulate artificial intelligence use in workplaces

Surveillance cam, CCTV system indoors. 3d illustration

With improvements in modern technology, artificial intelligence (AI) now has the ability to accurately monitor health and safety in the workplace. However, this has raised concerns over breaches of workplace surveillance and privacy laws.

AI is currently being used to identify workplace safety breaches, for example, employees not wearing gloves or identifying hazards like spills. This may seem to be a useful tool to protect worker safety and ensure compliance with work, health, and safety legislation. However, the use of AI in this manner also raises the issue of surveillance. This results in workers altering their behaviour by being constantly watched and assessed by cameras.

A company known as Intenseye uses AI to monitor Australian workplaces and provide real-time violation notifications to employers. Intenseye noted that to ensure privacy, workers’ faces are blurred and have even refused requests from workers asking to unblur faces. Moreover, Intenseye’s AI hides the human aspect of monitoring and replaces human bodies with stick-figure visuals. Despite these ‘ethical measures’ in place, commentators argue that Australia’s current legislative regime cannot sufficiently regulate the rising use of AI in the workplace. Without clear boundaries or limitations on the use of AI, problems arise as to consent, misuse, safety, and accountability.

Whether we like it or not, cameras are here to stay. Fortunately, calls for regulatory reform have already begun. The Department of Industry, Science and Resources has developed an AI Ethics Framework for organisations to integrate the use of AI in an ethical way. Additionally, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) is currently being reviewed with a focus on emerging AI technology. Concerns over AI use in workplaces have also been flagged to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. But even with further regulatory certainty, would you feel comfortable always being monitoring by AI?

At Arnotts Technology Lawyers, we are experts in advising clients on workplace surveillance legislation. For further information on your workplace surveillance rights or obligations, please feel free to contact us.

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