France’s privacy watchdog, the CNIL, has recently fined Amazon France Logistique a hefty sum of 32 million euros ($34.8 million) for implementing a system that invades the privacy of its staff. The CNIL found that the company had gone too far in monitoring employee performance and had created an “excessively intrusive” work environment.
The crux of the issue stems from Amazon’s use of scanners to track staff productivity and downtime. These scanners were programmed to record any period of inactivity exceeding 10 minutes and to flag packages that were scanned “too rapidly”. The CNIL argues that this system puts undue pressure on employees, forcing them to justify every break or interruption.
Additionally, Amazon failed to properly inform its employees and visitors about video surveillance, a clear violation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which aims to protect personal data and ensure privacy rights.
In response to the CNIL’s findings, Amazon vehemently disagrees and plans to appeal the decision. The tech giant asserts that the use of warehouse management systems is a common industry practice, aimed at ensuring safety, efficiency, and timely processing of packages.
That being said, Amazon has taken some steps to address the CNIL’s concerns. The company has decided to deactivate the functionality that detects when a package is processed too quickly. Moreover, Amazon has extended the threshold for inactivity warnings from 10 minutes to 30 minutes.
The CNIL’s decision to fine Amazon was driven by inspections prompted by press reports and numerous employee complaints regarding certain practices within Amazon’s warehouses.
While it remains to be seen how this case will unfold, it sheds light on the delicate balance between monitoring employee performance and respecting their right to privacy. Companies must tread carefully to ensure they comply with data protection laws and respect the privacy of their workforce.