Over 20 Union Leaders Demand Europe Crackdown on Amazon’s Invasive Worker Surveillance


Over 20 Union Leaders Demand Europe Crackdown on Amazon’s Invasive Worker Surveillance

In an unprecedented move, over 20 leaders of major trade unions across Europe, representing over eight million workers, are calling on European data protection authorities to ramp up oversight over Amazon’s abusive – potentially illegal – data surveillance practices. This collective initiative underscores a growing concern about the harms of Amazon’s practices on workers’ rights and workplace safety.

The union leaders, from 11 European countries where Amazon’s warehouse and delivery operations employ a significant number of workers, are raising alarm regarding the company’s pervasive use of surveillance and algorithmic management. These invasive measures include the extensive use of hand scanners, activity monitoring software, video cameras, GPS devices and other tracking technologies. Recent surveys have shown this surveillance’s serious consequences on workers’ mental and physical health.

Highlighting recent regulatory actions, the union presidents cited the decision by the French data protection authority (CNIL) on December 27, 2023, which found Amazon France Logistique in violation of several General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) principles. The CNIL imposed a substantial fine of €32 million for creating an “excessively intrusive system” for monitoring employee activity and performance, along with penalties for inadequate video surveillance protocols.

We ask you, European data protection authorities, to follow France’s example by investigating the legality of Amazon’s use of worker data and taking steps to stop practices that are in breach of the law. We ask that you ensure Amazon complies with European legislation that protects workers fundamental rights and freedoms, including privacy and control of their data,” the signatories state in a letter submitted to data rights authorities across the EU.

This is not Amazon’s first confrontation with European data privacy laws. In 2021, Luxembourg’s data protection authority issued a €746 million fine against the corporation for similar surveillance practices involving European consumers, marking at the time the largest fine in the law’s history.

Christy Hoffman, General Secretary of UNI Global Union, said, “Amazon’s relentless surveillance is not just about monitoring; it’s about control and intimidation. Such draconian measures strip our workers of their dignity and rights under the guise of increased productivity. We demand immediate change and accountability.

The unions are urging all European data protection authorities to emulate France’s proactive stance by investigating the legality of Amazon’s surveillance tactics and implementing measures to curtail any unlawful activities. Their appeal emphasizes the need for Amazon to adhere to European legislation safeguarding workers’ fundamental rights, including privacy and data control.

The union leaders committed to collaborating with European authorities to enforce the data rights of Amazon employees, sending a clear message that excessive surveillance in the workplace is unacceptable and will be challenged.

The pervasive and harmful surveillance tactics employed by Amazon not only undermine the trust between workers and management but also highlight a systemic disregard for our privacy laws. It’s high time that we stand up and demand that these multinational companies respect workers’ personal data and their right to a dignified workplace. We need robust action now to ensure that our laws are fully enforced,” said Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa.


UNI Europa