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Lawmakers Demand Answers from AI CEOs on Working Conditions

AI, artificial intelligence, legislators, working conditions

Sen. Edward J. Markey and Rep. Pramila Jayapal have led several colleagues in demanding answers from CEOs of leading artificial intelligence (AI) companies regarding the working conditions of their data workers.

In a letter dated Wednesday (Sept. 13) and addressed to the leaders of nine prominent AI companies, the lawmakers emphasized the crucial role played by data workers in the development and deployment of AI technology. The nine companies are Microsoft, Amazon, OpenAI, Anthropic, Inflection AI, Scale AI, Meta, IBM and Alphabet. 

The letter also highlighted exploitative conditions faced by data workers, including low wages, lack of benefits and constant surveillance, according to a Wednesday press release. The lawmakers argued that tech companies have a responsibility to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, fair compensation and protection from unjust disciplinary proceedings.

“Contrary to the popular notion that AI is entirely machine-based and autonomous, AI systems in fact depend heavily on human labor,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “Despite the essential nature of this work to AI, the working conditions are grueling.”

The letter said that data workers often receive low wages and no health insurance or benefits. Additionally, a significant portion of their time is spent on uncompensated work, such as searching for tasks and training. Workers also face constant surveillance, including keystroke logs, computer screenshots and webcam photos taken by the digital labor platform.

To address these concerns, the lawmakers have requested written responses from the companies regarding the working conditions of data workers, their use of data work in training and deploying AI technology, and steps taken to protect consumer privacy. They have asked for these responses to be provided by Oct. 11. 

Together with Markey and Jayapal, the letter is also signed by six other lawmakers, including Sens. Bernie SandersRon Wyden and Elizabeth Warren, as well as Reps. Jamaal BowmanKatie Porter and Mark Pocan.

In other recent news around AI, world leaders at this year’s Group of 20 (G-20) summit pledged in their closing message to ensure “responsible AI development, deployment and use” that would safeguard rights, transparency, privacy and data protection.

The G-20 leaders also agreed to seek a “pro-innovation regulatory/governance approach” that capitalizes on the benefit of AI while not losing sight of potential risks.