The biggest GDPR fine in Germany

02.10.2020

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H&M will be charged €35.3 million – penalty imposed by the Data Protection Authority of Hamburg. The company, which has a service center in Nuremberg, is accused of collecting and storing private life data of its employees. H&M has allegedly been gathering too much data than it had rights to about hundreds of its employees since 2014. In the press release describing the incident it is said that lots of private details got documented by the company’s management, including information about family issues, religion, illness information and diagnoses. These records, in some cases quite elaborate and full of particularities, made for further processing and analysis were available for dozens of employees to access the information.

The arbitrariness with which the company’s managers acted collecting and recording private life data during casual talks as well as keeping a history of such details to create an illicit profile, is among the key problems which the Data Protection Authority is trying to convey by exacting the biggest ever GDPR fine within Germany so far.

The fact that the company collects private information surfaced unexpectedly in 2019 – after a configuration error in the system which spouted the data letting anyone working at the company access the information. The exposed details were available for hours.

60GB of information was provided by H&M to the DPA.

The company took many steps to recoup the level of security and transparency – the brand has reportedly contributed into compliance and launched a data protection program in Nuremberg. A new employee has been assigned to implement data protection coordinating. The new risk management framework of the affected service center included mechanisms preventing whistleblowing and updating privacy status.

It has been noted that H&M was going to reimburse the employees for major inconvenience.

Interestingly, according to Trust Anchor, the penalty considering the company’s turnover the penalty should have been two times higher – about €61 million, but thanks to the cooperation with the DPA it has been cut in half.