France fines Amazon $35 million over ‘intrusive’ employee surveillance

France’s data privacy watchdog organization, the CNIL, has fined a logistics subsidiary of Amazon €32 million, or $35 million in US dollars, over the company’s use of an “overly intrusive” employee surveillance system. The CNIL says that the system employed by Amazon France Logistique “measured work interruptions with such accuracy, potentially requiring employees to justify every break or interruption.”

Of course, this system was forced on the company’s warehouse workers, as they seem to always get the short end of the Amazon stick. The CNIL says the surveillance software tracked the inactivity of employees via a mandatory barcode scanner that’s used to process orders. The system tracks idle time as interruptions in barcode scans, calling out employees for periods of downtime as low as one minute. The French organization ruled that the accuracy of this system was illegal, using Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as a legal basis for the ruling.

To that end, this isn’t being classified as a labor case, but rather a data processing case regarding excessive monitoring. “As implemented, the processing is considered to be excessively intrusive,” the CNIL wrote, noting that Amazon uses this data to assess employee performance on a weekly basis. The organization also noted that Amazon held onto this data for all employees and temporary workers.

Amazon responded with a lengthy statement on the matter, writing “we strongly disagree with the CNIL’s conclusions, which are factually incorrect, and we might appeal the decision.” Amazon went on to say that it’s not the only company in the logistics industry that uses a connected warehouse system of this sort, going on to tout the system for balancing the “workload between teams so that we can keep processing orders in a safe and efficient manner.” It did say it would extend the threshold limit of its system, potentially giving employees a longer window before alerts start coming in.

Amazon did say it’s mulling an appeal, so we’ll keep an eye on this story as it develops. Over on the other side of the pond, the company has found itself practically living in hot water. Amazon was found to be responsible for more than half of warehouse worker injuries in 2022 and has been accused of unfair labor practices on several occasions. As a matter of fact, the company’s logistics division churns through employees at such a high rate that it ends up costing Amazon $8 billion each year. Maybe it needs a corporate monitoring system of some kind.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at 

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