Surveillance technology at the workplace to ensure pizza perfection

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The global pizza chain Dominos has begun rolling out its ‘DOM Pizza Checker’, a scanning device that seeks to identify ‘poor customer outcomes’ and ‘bad pizzas’, in Australia and New Zealand. This is the latest development in the growing use of artificial intelligence and surveillance in the workplace by companies across the world. According to Domino’s, cameras have been installed in order to ‘use machine learning, artificial intelligence and sensor technology to identify pizza type, even topping distribution and correct toppings.’

The DOM Pizza Checker monitors employees with a sophisticated overhead device, with built in algorithms designed to analyse the creation of a pizza to ensure it matches the order given. The device then produces a grade ‘based on the cheese, border, and spread’ of the toppings. If a pizza has been made poorly or beneath the required standard, it is flagged by a notification highlighting that fact which consequently means the employee must remake it.

Dominos are not alone in bringing AI surveillance into the workplace. According to the global research and advisory firm, Gartner, 50% of businesses today monitor their employees in some form. Monitoring can take a variety of forms; recording your Google searches, logging keystrokes, or tracking the time spent undertaking certain tasks. A prominent example of this occurred last year when Amazon patented an ‘ultrasonic bracelet’ which was to be worn by all its workers during the performance of ‘assigned tasks’.

Under GDPR in the UK, employers are entitled to monitor employee activity if they have a lawful basis for doing so and that the purpose of their monitoring is clearly communicated to the employees in advance. Employers must rely on a legitimate interest as an appropriate legal basis for processing personal data. Thus, naturally, the legitimacy of their stated interest must be valid, said interest must be balanced, and surveillance proportionate against the employee’s rights and freedoms. It remains to be seen whether the legitimate interest presented by dominos for the introduction of the DOM Pizza Checker will carry in the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

Dominos have insisted that this is not an act of surveillance and rather a training tool. However, there are concerns amongst unions and employees that such systems will be used to pinpoint stores which perform poorly and subsequently, employees who perform below the standard. Businesses have always tried to maximise workers’ output, but as surveillance technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and affordable, employees worry that their performance will be disproportionately controlled and monitored by overbearing technological developments.