New Paper at CSCW: Rethinking People Analytics With Inverse Transparency by Design

Authors: Valentin Zieglmeier, Alexander Pretschner


Employees work in increasingly digital environments that enable advanced analytics. Yet, they lack oversight over the systems that process their data. That means that potential analysis errors or hidden biases are hard to uncover. Recent data protection legislation tries to tackle these issues, but it is inadequate. It does not prevent data misusage while at the same time stifling sensible use cases for data.

We think the conflict between data protection and increasingly data-driven systems should be solved differently. When access to an employees' data is given, all usages should be made transparent to them, according to the concept of inverse transparency. This allows individuals to benefit from sensible data usage while addressing the potentially harmful consequences of data misusage. To accomplish this, we propose a new design approach for workforce analytics software we refer to as inverse transparency by design.

To understand the developer and user perspectives on the proposal, we conduct two exploratory studies with students. First, we let small teams of developers implement analytics tools with inverse transparency by design to uncover how they judge the approach and how it materializes in their developed tools. We find that architectural changes are made without inhibiting core functionality. The developers consider our approach valuable and technically feasible. Second, we conduct a user study over three months to let participants experience the provided inverse transparency and reflect on their experience. The study models a software development workplace where most work processes are already digital. Participants perceive the transparency as beneficial and feel empowered by it. They unanimously agree that it would be an improvement for the workplace. We conclude that inverse transparency by design is a promising approach to realize accepted and responsible people analytics.

Read the preprint here. Congratulations to the authors!