France Fines Amazon 32m Euros Over ‘Excessive’ Worker Surveillance

France’s data protection regulator, the CNIL, said on Tuesday it has fined Amazon’s French warehouses unit 32 million euros (£27m) for a worker performance monitoring  system that it called “excessively intrusive”.

The agency said Amazon France Logistique used package-processing scanners to monitor staff’s actions and alerted management of worker inactivity exceeding 10 minutes “right up to the second”, a system that was illegal, the CNIL said.

It also criticised a system that raised an alert if a parcel was scanned too fast, in less than 1.25 seconds.

The time between employees entering the warehouse and starting work was also monitored and workers had to regularly justify breaks, it said.

Image credit: Amazon

‘Excessive’ surveillance

The agency said staff were not adequately informed of the surveillance and deemed that the data was retained for too long.

“The CNIL considered it was excessive to keep all the data collected by the system, as well as the resulting statistical indicators, for all employees and temporary workers, for a period of 31 days,” the regulator stated.

The CNIL, which began its probe in 2019 following media articles and worker complaints, said several thousand staff were affected by the surveillance.

The fine is equivalent to about 3 percent of the annual revenue at Amazon France Logistique, not far below the maximum fine of 4 percent allowed under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

‘Factually incorrect’

The agency called the size of the fine “nearly unprecedented”.

Amazon said the findings were “factually incorrect” and said it reserved the right to appeal. The systems are in place “to guarantee security, quality and efficiency”, the firm said.

It said the system monitoring the speed at which items are stowed was necessary to ensure workers were properly checking items for damage or other problems before they were scanned for shipping.

Measuring “idle time” is not intended to control a worker’s every movement but to ensure supply chain anomalies are quickly investigated and rectified, it said.

But Amazon said that in response to the findings it would disable the system monitoring handling speeds and extend idle time alerts from 10 minutes to 30.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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