|October 21, 2013|
Previously published on October 16, 2013
We reported in July that the U.S. Labor Department had launched a "Fair Labor Data Challenge" asking application developers to create "an innovative tool that lets an informed consumer find out if a business is obeying the law when it comes to paying workers properly." As we said then, the actual solicitation goes well beyond information relating to "paying workers properly" and indeed expressly mentions providing access to information maintained by state licensing agencies and health boards, as well as unspecified environmental data.
The initiative appears to be foundering so far. For one thing, substantive questions or concerns raised by developers weeks ago have received either no public reply or no more than essentially, "We're looking into it."
Furthermore, developers' submissions were due by October 11, 2013, and a public-voting phase was scheduled to begin the next day. Whether any apps have been entered is not clear, but it does appear that no voting is underway. USDOL might ascribe this to what its website calls the "suspension of Federal government services." But the contest seems to be administered by an external, private organization known as ChallengePost, which has been described as "the official online 'challenge platform' of the U.S. federal government."
The Fair Labor Data Challenge is off to an inauspicious start. This is all-the-more reason to be concerned about its already-troubling aspects, including whether any resulting app can be relied upon to provide accurate information.