Amazon Fined £27m in France for Alleged Worker Surveillance Excesses
Amazon has incurred a €32 million (£27 million) fine in France for purportedly implementing “excessive” surveillance measures on its workers, a penalty imposed by the CNIL (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés), the French data watchdog. The fine primarily stems from the data watchdog’s assertion that Amazon France Logistique, responsible for managing warehouses, engaged in practices violating the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The CNIL investigation was prompted by employee complaints and media reports detailing working conditions within Amazon warehouses. The watchdog highlighted specific breaches, notably an intricate alert system monitoring employee activity that the CNIL deemed unlawful. This system included alerts triggered by quick scanning, short breaks, and extended breaks, potentially pressuring workers to justify their actions.
Amazon strongly contested the CNIL’s findings, labelling them as “factually incorrect.” The company defended its warehouse management systems, emphasising their necessity for safety, quality, and operational efficiency.
The CNIL also questioned the retention of workers’ data for 31 days, deeming it unnecessary. Amazon, in response, underscored the industry-standard nature of such systems and their role in managing inventory and meeting customer expectations.
Similar surveillance practices in Amazon’s UK warehouses had previously drawn attention, with Brian Palmer, Amazon’s Europe policy chief, acknowledging a system where employees with three productivity flags could face termination. The CNIL’s findings echo concerns raised by the UK’s Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee, emphasising the potential for surveillance technologies to induce distrust and micromanagement among workers.
The CNIL’s verdict highlighted Amazon’s access to extensive data for safety and quality purposes, branding the implemented system as “excessively intrusive.” The watchdog underscored the undue stress imposed on workers and the need for better transparency. The GMB union, representing Amazon’s UK warehouse workers, echoed these concerns, emphasising the substantial scrutiny and surveillance faced by the company’s staff.