French court fines Ikea $1.2 million for spying on staff

A French court ordered Dutch multinational furniture retail company, Ikea to pay a fine of $1.2 million for spying on staff in France.

Ikea’s former CEO Jean-Louis Baillot was handed a 2-year suspended term and a $60,000 fine. Apart from the CEO, 14 more people including top executives, former police officers and store managers faced trial at the Versailles court.

The French subsidiary hired private detectives and police officers to collect private data of staff. Ikea’s annual bill for surveillance ran to as much as $730,000.

The mass surveillance system was used by store managers to vet job applicants, as well as checking up on their staff.

The case centred on Ikea France’s surveillance of staff during 2009-2012. The scandal was exposed by journalists, then trade unions took legal action.

The illegal surveillance covered about 400 people, state prosecutor Pamela Tabardel said.

“What’s at stake is the protection of our private lives against the threat of mass surveillance,” she said when the trial opened in March.

Managers were found to have used a private security firm, Eirpace, which in turn collected personal data from the police. It included information about lifestyles and any previous criminal convictions.

The Eirpace boss, Jean-Pierre Four├Ęs, was given a two-year suspended sentence and a $24,500 fine.

When the trial opened, Ikea France issued a statement saying it “strongly condemned” the privacy violations and it apologised for “this situation which does serious harm to the company’s values and ethical standards”.