Caroline O'Donovan, reporting for BuzzFeed News: To convince workers to join the unstable and unreliable world of freelance work, startups and platforms often promise freedom and flexibility. But on the digital freelance platform Upwork, company software tracks hundreds of freelancers while they work by saving screenshots, measuring the frequency of their clicks and keystrokes, and even sometimes taking webcam photos of the workers. Upwork, which hosts "millions" of coding and design gigs, guarantees payment for freelancers, even if the clients who hired them refuse to pay. But in order to get the money, freelancers have to agree in advance to use Upwork's digital Work Diary, which counts keystrokes to measure how "productive" they are and takes screenshots of their computer screens to determine whether they're actually doing the work they say they're doing. Upwork's tracker isn't automatically turned on for all gigs on the platform. Some freelancers like it because it guarantees payment, but others find it unnerving. [...] Upwork maintains that freelancers don't have to use the time tracker if it makes them uncomfortable. [...] But while Work Diary may be opt-in on its surface, Microsoft Research's Mary Gray said freelancers may not feel like they really have a choice.
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