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Power and Human Dignity in Digital Working Life

Digitalisation increases employers’ ability to manage, control, instruct and scrutinize employees' work performance, behaviour and location. If the same tools are used to individualize sanctions or reward achievements or behaviours, the balance of power between the trade union collective and the employer side is challenged.

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Main research questions

1)  What features of digitalisation of working life can provide a basis for a shift in power relationships and weakened co-determination?

In the first part of the project, we will study the acquisition and development of IT-based systems that generate personal data about employees, and how this technology is used and affects the parties of working life. In this context, we will examine digital systems regardless of whether they have exercise of control as purpose. We also ask to what extent the employees exercises co-determination rights and influences the acquisition and design of technology, and how these opportunities for influence are utilized. Particular emphasis is placed on mapping how the effects of the digital solutions are experienced by the employees, and what impact they believe this has on their fundamental rights and freedoms. Fafo has the main responsibility for this part of the project, in collaboration with NRCCL.

2)  What legal rules apply to the employer's processing of personal data about employees, and what significance do these rules have for possible shifts in power relationships and weakened co-determination?

We will investigate which legal rules apply to the employer's processing of information about employees. Employees' opportunities to influence their own situation will be a central part of the analysis. Greatest emphasis will be placed on the analysis of the Privacy Regulation (GDPR). Although the GDPR is an EU regulation, each country is allowed the power to lay down more detailed rules to ensure the rights and freedoms of employees. Such provisions are not limited to data protection in the narrow sense, but also include the protection of employees' "human dignity, legitimate interests and fundamental rights" (cf. Article 88(2)). We will compare features of the actual digitalisation of working life (cf. part 1) with the right to national regulation, and examine how Norwegian legislation and agreements make use - or failed to make use of - the right to adopt national rules.

3)  How can the design of computer systems used in working life have an impact on codetermination?

The third part concerns opportunities for co-determination of the employer's system solutions. To what extent and in what way can employees influence the functionality and properties of the systems? This may e.g. concern the information that will be registered, what the information is to be used for, how long the information is to be stored, who should have access to it, etc. An underlying view is that it may be desirable to have system solutions that, as far as possible, have "programmed" good legal practice regarding built-in data protection and employee protection. We will examine the extent to which and in what way employees' freedoms and rights can be secured by establishing requirements for the system solutions used by the employer.

The research foundation Fafo has the main responsibility for the first-mentioned research question. The person appointed to the position will primarily be responsible for research questions 2 and 3.


Part 1 of the project (under the responsibly of Fafo) will be carried out in 2021.

Part 2 of the project (under the responsibility of NRCCL) starts in October 2021 and has a duration of 3 years.

Organization and collaboration

The project will be carried out in collaboration between the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law (NRCCL) and Fafo. A steering group has been established with participants from NRCCL, Fafo and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO). The reference group for the project has i.a. participants from the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) and five trade unions. Department of Private Law, UiO, also participates in the reference group.

A PhD research fellow will be employed in the project

Fafo has the main responsibility for part 1 of the project. NRCCL is responsible for parts 2 and 3, and these two parts form the basis for the PhD work.

Project leader is Professor Dag Wiese Schartum, NRCCL.


The project is funded by the National Organization in Norway as well as the unions NTL, Fagforbundet, EL & IT-federation, IE and NAF.

Published June 11, 2021 1:56 PM - Last modified May 13, 2022 12:04 PM