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Regulator fines Amazon over surveillance of workers in France 

The watchdog in France, the CNIL, has fined Amazon €32 million in France for what has been deemed as “excessive” surveillance of its employees, Some of the measures used by the company were found to violate the law. 

Amazon France Logistique, responsible for warehouse management, was discovered to record data from workers’ handheld scanners in a manner that enabled precise tracking of activities, potentially requiring workers to justify each break.

The CNIL investigation began after employee complaints and media coverage of workplace conditions. It ended up finding several breaches of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by Amazon. 

One violation involved a three-alert system monitoring employee activity, which the CNIL pointed out is illegal. The alerts included rapid scanning of items, breaks of 10 minutes or more, and breaks lasting between one and 10 minutes. The CNIL also questioned the need for retaining workers’ data for 31 days.

The CNIL criticized Amazon for its excessively intrusive system. The watchdog expressed concern that the meticulous tracking of employees could lead to the need for justifying even brief interruptions in scanning activities.

Additionally, the regulator raised questions about Amazon’s use of scanner-collected data for tasks such as warehouse work planning, weekly employee evaluations, and training. It ruled that Amazon did not need that amount of scanner-collected data. 

This is not the first criticism against Amazon’s surveillance practices, with similar concerns raised in other countries, including the UK, where surveillance technology was reported to set performance targets and monitor worker performance. 

An Amazon spokesperson responded: “We strongly disagree with the CNIL’s conclusions which are factually incorrect and we reserve the right to file an appeal.

Warehouse management systems are industry standard and are necessary for ensuring the safety, quality, and efficiency of operations and to track the storage of inventory and processing of packages on time and in line with customer expectations.”

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