France’s data protection agency, CNIL, has fined Amazon’s French warehouses unit €32 million ($34.9 million) for deploying an “excessively intrusive” surveillance system to monitor staff performance. Amazon France Logistique used scanners to track employees, triggering alerts for inactivity exceeding 10 minutes or rapid handling of packages. CNIL found the surveillance violated the EU’s general data protection regulation (GDPR) by not obtaining adequate consent and fined Amazon nearly three percent of its annual revenue. Amazon rejects the findings but will adjust its surveillance practices in response to CNIL’s concerns.
The surveillance methods used by Amazon included monitoring workers with “stow machine guns” to check if items were scanned too quickly. CNIL noted that employees were under constant pressure, with time between entry and start of work also monitored. Workers had to justify absences regularly, and the surveillance data was kept for 31 days. CNIL described the fine as “nearly unprecedented” and close to the maximum of four percent of revenue that it could impose.
An Amazon spokesman defended the surveillance system, stating that it was necessary to guarantee security, quality, and efficiency. The company employs around 20,000 people on permanent contracts in France, spread across eight massive distribution centers. In response to CNIL’s findings, Amazon will deactivate the “stow machine guns” that signal handling speeds and extend the “idle time” warnings from 10 to 30 minutes. The fine reflects growing concerns about employee surveillance practices and the need for companies to adhere to privacy regulations.