Economy (2013)

Deutsche Post Adress

The BigBrotherAward 2013 in the Economics category goes to Deutsche Post Adress GmbH & Co KG. Millions of people in Germany each year supply data about their addresses and house moves to Deutsche Post, in thousands of post offices and via the Internet. On this basis, Deutsche Postadress GmbH can keep its address data recent, and it sells its nationwide local knowledge to paying customers. People that do not ask for their mail to be redirected are still pursued by our winner’s address investigations if this is in the interest of the advertising industry or debt collectors – and if necessary, this includes being pursued over the phone.
Sönke Hilbrans am Redner.innenpult der BigBrotherAwards 2012.
Sönke Hilbrans, Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz (DVD)

The BigBrotherAward 2013 in the “Economy” Category goes to Deutsche Post Adress GmbH & Co. KG, represented by Executives Mr Josef Gatzek and Dr Frank Schlein, for establishing what is probably the largest family of address databases in Germany.

Our winner has a famous mother, the good old “yellow” Post Office ­– known today as Deutsche Post AG. This mother confidently regards herself as a very strong brand in so-called address management. And there are good reasons for that. Deutsche Post controls an impressive database: more than eight million people change their postal address every year, and about four million of these ask Deutsche Post to redirect their mail. As they do this, most people agree that their address will be shared with third parties that already had the previous address – unless they explicitly opt out of that consent.

Deutsche Post Adress GmbH & Co KG feed these data into a database called “Postadress Move”, which our winner … commercialises, if you excuse the ugly word. “It’s those people’s own fault”, you may think, because you are always very careful about your own data of course – you would never set up a redirection order and always read the small print in order to object to anyone sharing your data with anybody else. And that may make you feel safe. But even if you are not using redirection, you still haven’t escaped our winner’s attention. About 1.2 million further new addresses still end up in the Postadress database, for instance if they were shared with other members of the Deutsche Post family or if they appeared in public directories or population registers, because those kinds of sources are used by our winner as well.

All that results in quite a collection: records of about nine million house moves from the last 24 months are available in “Postadress Move”, ready for businesses to keep their address data up to date. For a fee, of course. If you pay an extra fee, you can also ask a subsidiary of our winner to compare your data with those of more than five million address changes from earlier years (a scheme called “moversPLUS”). Our winner also offers to purge addresses they receive from undertakers, or that they have dug up by hand themselves, or that have been returned as undeliverable, from your address books (this is called “Postadress Clean”). In short: our winner offers services for all your needs, from retrieving data from registration authorities up to complex research in someone’s previous area of residence (the “Adress Research” portfolio). Need it be mentioned that another extra offer is to follow up “problem cases” by telephone calls if necessary, coupled with a success guarantee?

Another subsidiary of our winner offers the finishing touches, consisting of address data clearout, databases adorned with phone, fax and mobile numbers, a socio-economic assessment of the residential area, and yet another product for address-based evaluation of non-payment risks.

Didn’t we give a BigBrotherAward as early as 2001 für credit scores derived from data about someone’s residential area and neighbourhood? We’re not overly scaremongering here: it is, after all, Deutsche Post’s direct marketing department that boasts of having registered 19 million buildings, 34 million households and about 1 billion items of other data, of being able to source the local knowledge of 80,000 postal workers, and feed all this into a database that provides excellent knowledge about age structure, family arrangements, spending power, housing information, consumption preferences and mail ordering habits.

Your postman or postwoman as the eye and ear of a scoring service provider – surely that’s exactly what you were waiting for when you supplied your correct address in that mail redirection order, wasn’t it?

Do you get that creeping feeling that a there’s a hunt going on, a hunt for the most current address data, indeed for the consumers themselves? When we got started, we were talking about a friendly redirection service, gushing about strong mothers and big brands and telling tales about voluntary consent to addresses being used to update senders. But if you fan out the products offered by Deutsche Post in the area of address services, a universe opens up that you probably won’t willingly enter any more: long-term observation, neighbourhood investigation, follow-up telephone calls, “proactive” updating of address data and enhancing these with phone numbers, all from a single source. A terribly nice family, these Deutsche Post “daughters”. Hands up, resistance is futile!

Dear consumer, would you like to move house, or perhaps drop out, just escape for a while? Or do you just want to have your mail redirected? Whatever it is, don’t fool yourself: you will be found.

Congratulations on the BigBrotherAward 2013 in the Economics category, dear Deutsche Post Adress GmbH & Co. KG – head hunter of customer addresses.


Sönke Hilbrans am Redner.innenpult der BigBrotherAwards 2012.
Sönke Hilbrans, Deutsche Vereinigung für Datenschutz (DVD)

About BigBrotherAwards

In a compelling, entertaining and accessible format, we present these negative awards to companies, organisations, and politicians. The BigBrotherAwards highlight privacy and data protection offenders in business and politics, or as the French paper Le Monde once put it, they are the “Oscars for data leeches”.

Organised by (among others):

BigBrother Awards International (Logo)

BigBrotherAwards International

The BigBrotherAwards are an international project: Questionable practices have been decorated with these awards in 19 countries so far.