Clothing retailer H&M has been slapped a $40-million penalty after it was found guilty of spying on its employees.
According to a report by The Independent quoting Hamburg’s data protection commissioner Johannes Caspar, H&M was found collecting private information about employees at a customer service centre in Nuremberg, Germany.
Information range from harmless details to family issues and even religious beliefs.
Up to 50 managers were able to access private information “to obtain a detailed profile of employees for measures and decisions regarding their employment,” according to the statement.
“The combination of collecting details about their private lives and the recording of their activities led to a particularly intensive encroachment on employees’ civil rights,” the data protection commissioner said.
The privacy violation was discovered after the information went briefly visible to all people on the company network.
In a statement, H&M said it was taking full responsibility while apologising unreservedly to its employees.
It said it would review the penalty imposed.
Caspar welcomed H&M’s decision to pay compensation to employees at the Nuremberg service centre and take measures to prevent data privacy breaches anew.
“[The steps] show the intention to give the employees the respect and appreciation they deserve as dependent workers in their daily work for their company,” Caspar said.
H&M is a Sweden-based low-cost retailer with stores located globally.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company was planning to shut down 250 stores as customers have turned to online shopping.
Sales have recovered in September but were nonetheless 5% lower than its sales posted in the same month last year.
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