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Amazon must pay over $30 million for ‘excessive surveillance’

Amazon must pay over $30 million for ‘excessive surveillance’
Amazon must pay over $30 million for ‘excessive surveillance’
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Amazon France Logistique, which manages warehouses with workers-handled scanners, has been fined $34.7 million for ‘excessive’ surveillance of its employees.

The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) made the ruling a month ago but only released the findings this week. 

The CNIL found that Amazon excessively monitored staff’s performance by checking if workers’ ‘machine guns’ stood idle for longer than ten minutes or faster than 1.25 seconds. The firm has found the need to “precisely monitor the handling carried out” by each employee is illegal.

According to the investigations, “neither employees nor external visitors” knew about the video surveillance systems. This means workers were monitored without knowledge, penalized, and sent for training if underperforming.

Amazon vehemently denies the accuracy of the findings, asserting them to be factually incorrect.

How Amazon France Logistique works

Amazon France Logistique sorts parcels for delivery to customers. Each warehouse employee has a scanner to capture the data of the tasks assigned to them in real time. Employees must store and remove items from the shelves and pack them in certain allocated areas. 

The scanners carried by staff collect the data. The company then checks the quality, productivity and inactivity.

The findings

The CNIL has found it illegal that Amazon set up measurements to control staff’s work interruptions, including accuracy, to potentially “justify every break or interruption.” 

The data protection authority ruled that Amazon crossed a line when measuring the speed at which each scanner was performing. It called it “excessive” surveillance. These actions indicate that it “breached the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”

“Based on the principle that items scanned very quickly increased the risk of error, an indicator measured whether an item had been scanned in less than 1.25 seconds after the previous one,” states the report

Amazon response

Amazon has rejected the report and says the CNIL findings are “factually incorrect.”  It has told the BBC that it strongly disagrees with the firm’s conclusions. 

The e-commerce giant is now considering its legal options and reserves its right to appeal. 

A spokesperson told BBC that “warehouse management systems are industry standards” and are necessary for “safety, quality, and efficiency.” Amazon says the process they use requires to track the storage of inventory and processing of packages. 

Previous complaints of micromanagement

Amazon reportedly told parliament in January 2023, that if productivity red flags are raised against a worker’s name, he or she can be axed. However, Amazon later denied this statement. 

The Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Committee published a report that raised concerns about micromanagement and excessive performance monitoring. It suggested that the surveillance practices led to disruptions. 

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About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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