France’s data protection watchdog found the tech giant’s practices breached workers’ rights, fining Amazon a hefty €32 million.
Amazon France Logistique, which manages the company’s warehouses in France, set up “an excessively intrusive system for monitoring the activity and performance of employees”, said the French data protection agency CNIL.
The finding follows an inquiry set up in 2019 after a complaint from workers which was subsequently reported in the media.
Watchdog CNIL fined the company €32 million, the equivalent of about 3% of its annual revenue which reached €1.1 billion in 2021. Amazon France Logistique employs around 20,000 staff in France.
The practice labelled as illegal
The watchdog said Amazon’s French company had put in place scanners for its workers, to document in real-time how long it took to carry out certain tasks.
This meant that, in certain situations, employees being monitored by the scanners potentially had to justify the breaks they were taking.
Another mode of surveillance looked at the time workers took to quality-check articles, with the target set at a minimum window of 1.25 seconds.
If the time allocated fell below the threshold, Amazon considered the check to be insufficient.
The watchdog also found that Amazon’s practices breached the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) which imposes strict rules on companies for obtaining consent on how personal information is used.
The CNIL considered it was excessive that Amazon kept all data collected by the system for all employees and temporary workers for a 31-day period.
Amazon reserves the right to appeal
Reacting to the decision, Amazon said in a statement, it “strongly disagrees with the CNIL’s conclusions which are factually incorrect”, adding it reserved the right to appeal.
Amazon had argued the use of warehouse management systems was standard industry practice and its systems complied with applicable European and French regulations.
The tech giant also noted it had worked constructively with the CNIL throughout the procedure to respond to the questions raised.
The tech giant is known for its stringent standards in the world of e-commerce, asking workers to deliver packages in 24 hours.
Amazon says such efficiency would be impossible without the use of the scanners, as it aims to move tens of thousands of items constantly whilst also ensuring minimum quality standards.
It is not the first time Amazon has faced serious backlash in France. The tech giant in 2020 temporarily suspended all activity in the country after a French court found it was not doing enough to protect its workers from the Covid-19 virus.
Source: Euro News