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£32.1m fine for employee surveillance

Following an investigation by the Data Protection Authority of Hamburg, fashion retailer H&M has been fined the equivalent of £32.1m for surveillance illegally monitoring of its employees.

The German data protection watchdog discovered that the company was keeping excessive records on hundreds of employees based in their Nuremburg service centre. This included details of holidays, medical symptoms and diagnoses, family issues and religious beliefs. It has also been alleged that these intimate and highly sensitive details were, in some instances, being used by management to evaluate work performance.

In the last 12 months there have been a string of high-profile fines against companies for breaches of the legislation. Last year, Google was fined by the French data protection regulator for breaching GDPR, Marriot International were fined by our own Information Commissioner’s Office for insufficient data-security systems, and PWC were fined by the Greek data protection authority for unlawful processing of employee data. GDPR is now well into its second year yet many companies continue to give inappropriate weight to data protection and underestimate the significance of the information they process.

In the last 12 months there have been a string of high-profile fines against companies for breaches of the legislation.

The fine should come as a stark warning. Data Protection regulators are becoming more active and aggressive in their stance against data breaches. Head of the HmbBfDI, the German regulator, hopes that the size of the fine will “scare off companies from violating people’s privacy”.

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