France Fines Amazon Over Worker Surveillance

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France’s watchdog, CNIL, has fined Amazon €32 million for violating workers’ rights through intrusive monitoring practices.

  • The investigation into Amazon’s practices originated from workers’ complaints and media reports of potentially harsh conditions in 2019.
  • Amazon’s practices tracked employees down to the second and monitored if they scanned too fast.
  • The company failed to obtain appropriate consent for personal information use and retained the data collected for an excessive 31-day period.

French data protection agency CNIL fined Amazon €32 million for breaching its workers’ rights with monitoring practices.

The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) is the French watchdog responsible for ensuring that the processing of personal data in France follows the law. You are probably wondering what that has to do with Amazon’s workers. Well, it turns out that employee monitoring is right up their alley. They were looking into potential violations of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a pillar of the EU’s privacy law and human rights law.

The investigation stemmed from workers’ complaints and media reports of potentially harsh working conditions in Amazon warehouses in 2019. The French watchdog recently found that Amazon France Logistique, responsible for managing the company’s warehouses in France, was:

  • Tracking every scan with individual employee identifiers.
  • Recording downtime with such precision that workers often found themselves justifying their breaks.
  • Using a “stow machine gun,” a feature in their warehouse scanning system that flags employees who scan items too quickly (under 1.25 seconds).

On top of that, the tech giant not only failed to get appropriate consent for the use of personal information but kept the data collected for 31 days. The CNIL found these measures excessive, according to the press release.

As a result, “the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) fined AMAZON FRANCE LOGISTIQUE €32 million for setting up an excessively intrusive system for monitoring employee activity and performance.”

Amazon brings so much money that that fine is about 3% of Amazon France Logistique’s annual revenue.

In response, Amazon issued a statement strongly disagreeing with the CNIL’s conclusions, calling them “factually incorrect.” The 1.61 trillion-dollar company claimed that these measures are standard for the industry. It described them as “necessary to ensure safe, quality and efficient operations and to ensure inventory tracking and package processing on time and in accordance with to customer expectations.”

At this point, the situation has gone beyond “micromanaging.” Nanomanaging?

The working conditions in Amazon warehouses are a ball and chain short of inhumane. In 2020, the company temporarily suspended operations in France following a court ruling that it was not adequately ensuring the staff’s safety from the Covid-19 virus.

We are all mad at Shein for worker exploitation and environmental damage, but we look the other way when it comes to Amazon.

One must wonder if the value of human life and dignity is directly related to how fast one gets their shipment.

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