Amazon fined $35 million by France for ‘excessively intrusive’ monitoring of warehouse staff

France’s privacy watchdog rapped e-commerce giant Amazon for its monitoring system for warehouse workers and imposed a $35 million fine on the company. This fine was imposed on Amazon for using an “excessively intrusive system” to monitor worker performance and activity.

The French privacy watchdog fined Amazon for the excessive monitoring system(REUTERS)

The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) wrote on its website that the monitoring system being used by Amazon allowed the managers at the France Logistique division to monitor employees so closely that it breached the privacy standards set by the European Union.

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However, Amazon refuted these claims and issued a reply regarding the allegations put forward by CNIL. The tech giant said, “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,” Amazon further said in its statement.

France’s CNIL focused its investigation on how Amazon warehouse workers use handheld barcode scanners to track packages at various points as they move through the warehouse, such as putting them in crates or packing them for delivery.

The watchdog further argued that through these unconventional monitoring methods, Amazon is keeping the warehouse workers under “close surveillance” and “continuous pressure.”

Amazon monitoring employees through scanners?

The CNIL said in its report that Amazon uses a monitoring system where warehouse workers are expected to scan the parcels through their assigned scanners are multiple locations across the warehouse, the data of which is sent to the managers.

The watchdog said the scanner, known as a “stow machine gun,” allows the company to monitor employees to the “nearest second” because they signal an error if items are scanned too quickly — in less than 1.25 seconds.

This monitoring method is used as a measure to map “employee productivity” and measure the period of inactivity for the workers. However, EU privacy rules state that “it was illegal to set up a system measuring work interruptions with such accuracy, potentially requiring employees to justify every break or interruption”.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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