IKEA was ordered by a French court to pay a $1.2 million fine after being found guilty of improperly using data on its employees, CNN Business reports. Jean-Louis Baillot, former CEO of IKEA’s French subsidiary, has received a two-year suspended prison sentence and a $60,500 fine.
IKEA France was accused of deploying an alleged “spying system” on current and prospective employees between 2009 and 2012. Private investigators were paid over $700,000 annually in an effort to obtain background about its staff while also vetting applicants. BBC News points out that a store manager named Patrick Soavi detailed to the court how he would receive personal information from his cousin, who worked for the police.
Soavi asked another police officer to “cast an eye” on 49 candidates who had been selected for jobs, and was informed that three applicants had committed minor offenses. Another 68 names were sent by Soavi, and told to drop five of them. “I recognise that I was very naïve and rather over-zealous, but we were being asked to carry out these checks, and once I’d put a foot inside this system it was too late,” he said.
Prosecutors argued in their opening remarks that “protection of our private lives against the threat of mass surveillance” was at stake in the trial involving IKEA France, along with its former top executives, and store managers. “IKEA France has always strongly condemned these old facts and has apologized for this situation which seriously undermined the company’s values and ethical standards,” the company said in a statement following the verdict.