France’s National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) announced on Tuesday that it has fined Amazon France Logistique €32 million or nearly $35 million, saying that the company’s system for monitoring employee activity and keeping track of staff performance at its warehouses was “excessively intrusive”.
The data protection agency said that it conducted several inspections following press reports about certain practices at Amazon’s warehouses. CNIL had also received several complaints from employees.
The CNIL said in a statement that one such surveillance method was using “stow machine guns” to measure the speed at which items were scanned. The scanners alerted management of periods of inactivity exceeding 10 minutes and noted when a package was scanned “too rapidly” or in less than 1.25 seconds from the previous item.
The regulator called such a system excessive and ruled that it was illegal to set up a system measuring work interruptions with such accuracy, as it could pressure staff to justify each break or interruption.
The Commission also argued that they were not adequately informed about all the data collected by the system for all employees and temporary workers being kept for 31 days.
The privacy watchdog added that Amazon breached the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation as it hadn’t properly informed employees and external visitors about the video surveillance.
In response, Amazon said it strongly disagrees with the CNIL’s conclusions, calling them “factually incorrect,” and reserves the right to appeal. The e-commerce company added that such warehouse management systems are a common industry practice to guarantee safety and efficiency.