EU Lawmakers Write To Amazon CEO Asking If His Company ‘Spies’ On Politicians, Unions

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Siladitya Ray   Forbes U.S. Staff

EU Lawmakers Write To Amazon CEO Asking If His Company ‘Spies’ On Politicians, Unions

Photo: Bryan Angelo/ Unsplash

European legislators have written a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demanding to know if his company monitors politicians and trade union activists in the European Union, days after the online retailer deleted two job postings for “intelligence analysts,” that described unions as “threats”.

KEY FACTS

- The open letter to Bezos— authored by French politician Leila Chaibi and signed by 36 other members of the European Parliament— expresses concern over Amazon’s possible targeting of workers seeking to organize and also questions whether the U.S. tech giant had “spied” on politicians.

- Last week, Amazon had posted two job postings for “intelligence analysts,” whose jobs would have involved monitoring various things the company considered to be threats including trade unions and “hostile political leaders.”

- The listings, which grouped labor unions with hate groups and terrorism, were later deleted after Vice Newsfirst reported on them.

- In their letter, the legislators note that they are concerned about whether “European trade unions, as well as local, national or European elected representatives, are affected by this approach to ‘threat monitoring’, which aims to repress collective action and trade union organizing.”

- According to the Guardian, the parliamentarians who have signed the letter are mainly from left-wing and green parties, representing constituencies across the EU, including in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

CHIEF CRITIC

In a Twitter thread, where she shared a copy of the letter, Chaibi attacked the e-commerce giant writing, “Warning signs are growing on the anti-union and anti-democratic policies of Amazon.” Adding, “Mr. Jeff Bezos, freedom of association, freedom of speech and democracy cannot be questioned by any business, including yours.”

CRUCIAL QUOTE

According to a CNBC report, an Amazon spokesperson said that the job post was not an accurate description of the role, adding that “it was made in error and has since been corrected.” The company also pointed out that it does not want its staff to “spy” on third-party groups, instead, it seeks to analyze publicly available information to understand the environment in which it operates.

KEY BACKGROUND

Last week, trade unions in the region called for a European Commission investigation into whether Amazon’s monitoring of workers was legal after the two job listings were made. The Open Markets Institute, which studies monopolies, published a report on Amazon's employee surveillance measures, noting that a fundamental aspect of the company’s power comes from its “ability to surveil every aspect of its workers’ behavior and use the surveillance to create a harsh and dehumanizing working environment that produces a constant state of fear, as well as physical and mental anguish.”

BIG NUMBER

19,816. That’s the total number of Amazon’s frontline employees who have either tested positive or been presumed positive for COVID-19, according to data shared by the company itself. Workers and activist coalitions have accused the company of endangering its workforce in the midst of the pandemic.

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Siladitya Ray   Forbes U.S. Staff

I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018.