Amazon fined for 'excessive' employee monitoring

Authority rules Amazon's indicator system used on staff unlawful

Amazon fined for 'excessive' employee monitoring

The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) has fined retail giant Amazon €32 million for "excessive" monitoring of its employees' activities and performance.

In a press release, the CNIL ruled that the indicators in Amazon's employee monitoring system is unlawful under the country's General Data Protection Regulation.

The three indicators separately signal an error when an employee scans an item in less than 1.25 seconds, periods of scanner downtime of 10 minutes or more, as well as scanner interruption between one and 10 minutes.

"The CNIL ruled that the system for measuring the speed at which items were scanned was excessive," the authority said in its media release. "The CNIL ruled that it was illegal to set up a system measuring work interruptions with such accuracy, potentially requiring employees to justify every break or interruption."

The CNIL also considered it "excessive" that Amazon kept for 31 days all the data collected by its system, as well as the results of the statistical indicators, for all employees and temporary workers.

According to CNIL, it did not question that Amazon's very heavy constraints and high-performance targets can justify its scanner system.

"However, it considered that the retention of all this data and the resulting statistical indicators were disproportionate overall," it stated.

'Factually incorrect' findings?

In response, Amazon disputed the findings of the CNIL, stressing that such systems are "industry standard."

"We strongly disagree with the CNIL's conclusions which are factually incorrect and we reserve the right to file an appeal," Amazon told BBC in a statement.

"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."

Employee monitoring at work

Debora Jeske, an HR professional and adjunct lecturer at University College Cork, previously underscored that certain and carefully collected data from employee monitoring tools can be a "useful resource for organisations."

But the workplace has long been divided over getting monitored - especially following the rise of remote work.

In the US, a report released last year revealed that 96% of remote companies are utilising some kind of employee monitoring software, including 37.4% who require staff to be on video as part of monitoring.

But such measures to monitor employees can hurt recruitment and retention efforts.

IT managers in the US said they see an uptick in employees quitting (28%) and difficulty hiring new employees (27%) when monitoring tools are in use.

They also saw a decrease in morale (26%), an increase in employee anxiety (30%), as well as faster employee burnout (28%), according to a survey from digital employee experience company 1E.

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