IKEA Fined $1.2M for Elaborate ‘Spying System’

A French court fined the furniture giant for illegal surveillance on 400 customers and staff.

IKEA’s French subsidiary was just hit with a $1.2 million fine after it was found guilty of a creepy systematic snooping scheme targeting customers, employees and even prospective hires.

Prosecutors said in all, the company illegally surveilled about 400 people in total, according to the BBC.

IKEA France’s former chief executive, Jean-Louis Baillot, was also personally fined €50,000 (around $60,200 at press time) for “storing personal data,” according to Deutsche Welle, and given a two-year suspended sentence by the French court.

More than a dozen others were on trial for the spy scheme, including four police officers accused of handing over confidential records and an additional former CEO of IKEA France, Stefan Vanoverbeke, DW reported.

The furniture seller subsidiary was found guilty of running the illegal operations between 2009 and 2012 that involved hiring a private security firm, Eirspace, to dig up dirt on their employees and perceived adversaries, according to reports. In one instance, the company investigated an employee to find out why they could afford a BMW on their salary.

Another former IKEA France employee, who is also involved in union activism, was accused by the company of robbing a bank after they hired cops to hand over police records, DW said. The employee hadn’t broken any laws, just shared a name with a bank robber.

One store manager, Patrick Soavi, described to the court how he asked a police-officer cousin to “cast an eye” on 49 job applicants, BBC reported. Later he sent on another 68 names over for illegal background checks.

“I recognize 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,” Soavi testified.

Ikea France Denies ‘Generalized Espionage’

Last spring, the former head of IKEA France’s risk-management operations, Jean-Francois Paris, testified that he budgeted between $633,000 and $753,000 every year to outside security firm Eispace for these kinds of investigations.

Eirspace chief Jean-Pierre Fourès was also given a suspended two-year sentence and €20,000 fine ($24,000) by the French court.

In response, IKEA France’s legal team said there wasn’t “generalized espionage” within the organization and that the subsidiary issued the statement that it “takes the protection of its employees’ and customers’ data very seriously,” DW reported.

IKEA France has not responded to Threatpost’s request for comment on the ruling.

Investigative journalists with Canard Enchaine first uncovered the illegal scheme, and a union has also filed a formal complaint against IKEA France.

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