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H&M found guilty for illegal surveillance of employees

By Don-Alvin Adegeest



When data protection and privacy laws were implemented in Europe in 2018 one of the key legislative acts was the safeguarding of personal data.

Retailers were forced to quickly update their privacy policies, as collecting customer data considerable fueled their share in the rise global e-commerce and mobile commerce, but also meant the industry would be heavily impacted by the new regulations.

But just as retailers collect data on customers, they may also do so on their own employees. This week a German watchdog found H&M guilty for illegal surveillance of several hundred employees.

Misuse of personal data

The Swedish fast fashion giant was fined 35.3 million euro (32.1m pounds) for illegally keeping “excessive” records on the families, religions and illnesses of its workforce at its Nuremberg service centre, the German watchdog found.

According to the BBC, H&M has accepted full responsibility and plans to compensate employees.

It is the second-largest fine a single company has faced under EU GDPR rules after French data regulator, CNIL, fined Google 50m euro for breaching the General Data Protection Regulation. . “H&M’s privacy violations included extensive staff surveys, with details of holidays, medical symptoms and diagnoses for illnesses, the year-long investigation by the Data Protection Authority of Hamburg (HmbBfDI) found.”

“Some managers also sought further private details in informal chats, including family issues or religious beliefs, which were then stored and used to evaluate work performance and make employment decisions,” wrote the BBC.

“This is a case that showed a gross disregard” of data-protection rules in Germany, HmbBfDI head Johannes Caspar said. The large fine was “justified and should help to scare off companies from violating people’s privacy”, he added.

H&M, in an apology to the service-centre staff in Nuremberg said: “All currently employed at the service centre, and all who have been employed for at least one month since May 2018, when GDPR came into force, will receive financial compensation,” it said.

H&M said it had taken “forceful measures” to correct any related shortcomings in its Q3 report.

Image H&M; article source BBC

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