H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer was fined for violating the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
A German subsidiary of Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) was fined €35,258,707.95 by the Hamburg Data Protection Authority (HmbBfDI) for excessive use of employee data. This is considered to be the largest fine so far imposed against a company by regulators for the handling of employee data.
H&M, a Swedish multinational clothing-retail company employs around 126,000 people globally and operates 5,000 stores in 74 countries.
HmbBfDI launched an investigation into H&M’s Service Center in Nuremberg after a 2019 data breach due to a configuration error revealed how much data H&M Germany was collecting about the private lives of its employees.
It was found that since at least 2014, H&M had been collecting and storing abundant amounts of data about their employees’ holiday experiences, family issues, religious beliefs, and symptoms of illness and diagnoses on its company network.
These data were gathered during one-to-one conversations between employees and their supervisors and during “welcome back talks” held between employees and team leaders after their off from work. Some of the data was accessible by up to 50 other managers and it was used to make decisions about employees.
HmbBfDI, after evaluating 60GB of H&M data and reviewing witness evidence and the company’s internal procedures, stated that “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.”
H&M apologized to its employees and assured that they would provide financial compensation to everyone employed at the impacted entity since May 2018, when GDPR became law.
News of the fine came up when the company announced its plans to close 250 of its stores globally. The closures which was scheduled to take place in 2021, are mainly because the customers are showing a great preference for shopping online.
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