September 13, 2023

Wyden, Colleagues Demand Answers from AI Companies on Use of Underpaid, Overworked Data Workers

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Senate colleagues today wrote to nine of the nation’s leading companies developing and deploying artificial intelligence technology to call on them to answer for the working conditions of their data workers.

“Despite the essential nature of this work, millions of data workers around the world perform these stressful tasks under constant surveillance, with low wages and no benefits,” Wyden and colleagues wrote to the CEOs of Google, OpenAI, Anthropic, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, Inflection AI, Scale AI, and IBM. “Tech companies have a responsibility to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, fairly compensated work, and protection from unjust disciplinary proceedings…Unfortunately, many companies have sidestepped these duties, and that must change.”

AI systems depend heavily on human labor and the working conditions can be grueling. The median wage of workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk was estimated at just $1.77 per hour. As much as a third of workers’ time is spent on uncompensated work and many workers are periodically unpaid without explanation. Additionally, workers are often under constant surveillance, with keystroke logs, computer screenshots, and even webcam photos taken by the digital labor platform.

Most data workers receive no health insurance or benefits from Big Tech. 

The letter was led by U.S. Senator Ed Markey, D-Mass. Alongside Wyden, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.