Amazon fined €32 million for micromanaging staff in France

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The French privacy watchdog body has fined Amazon for how the company tracks and evaluates its staff. The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty, CNIL, fined Amazon’s logistics subsidiary — Amazon France Logistique — €32 million ($34.8 million).

France has fined Amazon for “overly intrusive” surveillance

According to CNIL, Amazon uses a system to evaluate the worker’s performance which uses an “overly intrusive” surveillance system. This system primarily involves the use of barcode scanners in Amazon’s warehouses. When processing an order, an Amazon employee scans products with a connected scanner before packing them for shipping. The CNIL is concerned about the precision with which the system measures the inactivity time of these scanners, which could potentially require employees to justify every break.

So, the watchdog considers both “idle time” (scanner downtime of ten minutes or more) and “latency under ten minutes” (scanner interruptions between one and ten minutes) as illegal data processing under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Additionally, Amazon’s “stow machine gun” indicator is also on CNIL’s radar as a GDPR issue.

The watchdog also argues that the surveillance system’s data processing is excessively intrusive, and it questions the need for Amazon to retain all collected data and statistical indicators for a prolonged period of 31 days for all employees and temporary workers. Amazon allegedly uses this performance data to assess warehouse workers’ overall performance every week.

Amazon’s answer to the allegations

Amazon says that it strongly disagrees with the CNIL’s findings. It says that many companies in the logistics industry use a connected warehouse system, not just Amazon. Plus, the “stow machine gun” was designed to allow workers to inspect products for damage before storage.

Meanwhile, Amazon has chosen to extend the threshold limit in addressing the “idle time” metric. The company will extend the threshold limit. It will trigger after 30 minutes, offering flexibility to employees.

Furthermore, Jeff Bezos-owned company has joined other major tech firms in the decision to reduce its workforce. Amazon recently implemented a round of layoffs, affecting about thirty employees. This comes a week after the company hinted at laying off hundreds of staff from its Prime Video and MGM Studio division.

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