Amazon reportedly spying on workers

| Dec 21, 2020 | Employment Law |

It is well-documented how Amazon tracks a customer’s behavior as they navigate the online retail giant’s site. In fact, many consumers have become comfortable with this, as it results in relevant ads based on previous online buying and browsing behavior.

What they may not know, however, is that Amazon, Google and others tech companies sell that information. Amazon has now taken things a step further by reportedly spying on its own workers.

Jeff Bezos turns to Pinkerton

According to recent news reports, Amazon hired Pinkerton investigators to spy on Polish employees who may have been coached by their managers. Many will remember the Pinkertons as paramilitary detectives who have been around since the Civil War. They held criminals accountable in the Wild West when law enforcement could not or would not track down criminals and bank robbers like Jesse James.

Their job for Amazon involved observing warehouse workers who planned to organize and to monitor labor unions, environmental activists, and other social movements on Instagram and Facebook, particularly in Europe.

Amazon’s outsourced espionage is supported by reports in Spain where workers held a Black Friday strike in 2019. Observing striking workers is illegal in Spain — it is considered a violation of data privacy protections and the right to assemble. Amazon claims it uses Pinkerton for security matters, but a Spanish union is reportedly considering a criminal lawsuit against the online giant.

Allegations of Facebook monitoring

Here in the United States, Amazon’s Flex drivers filed a lawsuit in 2020, alleging that the company monitored 43 of the drivers’ private Facebook groups run by contract workers around the United States. Filed in Southern California, the lawsuit seeks to become a class action lawsuit representing the Flex drivers.

Technology makes it easier to spy

Gone are the days when bosses hired moles or placed cameras in break rooms and other places where workers congregate. Now it is easy enough to track employees’ online activities if they use a work computer.

Employees concerned about their digital privacy may wish to limit sensitive conversations to locations outside of work and not use company equipment if discussions are not face-to-face.