Ethical Crowdsourcing

Employers would do well to remember that when using crowdsourcing to complete tasks or solve problems, there are ethical considerations to bear in mind.
Ethical Crowdsourcing - Crowdsourcing Week

Written by Clive Reffell

Mar 20, 2023

What ethical considerations should businesses keep in mind when using crowdsourcing?

Much is written about the benefits of crowdsourcing for businesses. They include access to people with specialist skills at only the times they are needed, and indeed any extra pairs of hands that are needed temporarily to meet heightened demand. Also, outsourcing of mundane tasks through platforms such as Mechanical Turk. Entire businesses have been built on the back of workers in the gig-economy, including the legions of people who deliver our online shopping to our homes, or drive us to places in their own vehicles. Employers would do well to remember that when using crowdsourcing to complete tasks or solve problems, there are some ethical crowdsourcing considerations to bear in mind.

Businesses often talk of using gig-workers as helping them find a personal work/life balance, letting them fit work patterns around other responsibilities and interests. For better-educated people, and qualified professionals, that may be the case. However, nearer the other end of the scale are many workers whose greatest aspiration is to be recognised as a  regular employee, with payment for some time off and when they are sick, with medical insurance (particularly in US), employment rights and even pension contributions.  For many of them, gig-work is taken on a needs-must basis, juggling numerous income streams with working hour opportunities handed out corresponding to various measures such as customer review ratings, and the ability to work long shifts with minimal washroom visits.

Piece-work, in which a worker is paid a fixed piece rate for each unit produced or action performed, regardless of time taken, is often outside of any minimum wage legislation. Whilst the gig-economy can provide income opportunities to a more diversified workforce, African gig workers, for example, grapple with concerns including depressed earnings, the absence of benefits and job security, and insufficient safeguards against occupational hazards

Here are six factors to keep in mind if you have a business that employs crowds of gig-workers, or use crowdsourcing to gather ideas or problem solutions.

Fair compensation

The crowd should be compensated fairly for their contributions. Businesses should ensure that the compensation offered is commensurate with the work required and the value of the contributions. If recruitment and payment is through an agency, are payments divided equitably between the agent and the gig-workers?

Informed consent

The crowd should be fully informed about the project and what their contributions will be used for. Businesses should provide clear and transparent information about the scope of the project, the intended use of the contributions, and any potential risks or limitations involved.

Respect for privacy

Businesses should take appropriate measures to protect the privacy of the crowd. This includes ensuring that any personal data collected is handled in accordance with applicable data protection laws and regulations.

Intellectual property rights

Businesses should respect the intellectual property rights of the crowd. This means ensuring that the contributions are not used beyond the scope of the project without the permission of the contributor, and that any intellectual property rights associated with the contributions are appropriately attributed and protected.

Quality control

Businesses should ensure that the quality of the crowd’s contributions meets the required standards. This includes implementing processes to verify the accuracy and completeness of the contributions, and providing feedback to the crowd to improve the quality of future contributions.

Transparency and accountability

Businesses should be transparent about their use of crowdsourcing and accountable for the impact of their actions on the crowd and society at large. This includes being open about their motivations and goals, and addressing any concerns or complaints raised by the crowd.

By keeping these ethical considerations in mind, businesses can ensure that their use of crowdsourcing is fair, respectful, and beneficial for all parties involved.

About Author

About Author

Clive Reffell

Clive has worked with Crowdsourcing Week on sourcing and creating content since May 2016. With knowledge and experience gained in a 30+ year marketing career based in London, UK, he operates as an independent crowdfunding advisor helping SMEs and startups to run successful crowdfunding projects, and with wider social media and content marketing issues.

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