The Berlin representative for data protection and freedom of information, Maja Smoltczyk, has initiated an investigation against Zalando. The reason for this are the digital systems “Zalos” and “Zafeto”, which the online retailer uses in its logistics centers to optimize processes. With the systems, Zalando records a lot of data, for example how many articles employees process in their shift. The key figures are visualized and discussed in monthly feedback talks with the employees in performance curves. NewsABC.net reported exclusively about it.
The exam was triggered by a complaint that was received in January. As a result, the authority initiated the procedure in the same month, a spokeswoman confirmed.
“It seems as if the control that Zalando has over the Zalos and Zafeto systems over his employees is very close. It is now being checked whether this is compatible with the General Data Protection Regulation, ”a spokeswoman for the authority told NewsABC.net.
It is not the first time that data protectionists have become active in the Zalando case. The Thuringian State Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information announced on request that the authority had carried out a check in the Zalando logistics center in Erfurt. However, this happened “some time ago” and “before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force”. The responsibility now lies in Berlin, where the Zalando company is based.
The Berlin data protection officer is also checking the “Zonar” feedback tool used by Zalando, about which the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” reported.
New findings in the Zalando case
The optimization of processes in logistics is an important success factor in the entire online trade. Only those who are successful here can keep up with the competition for the cheapest prices, the fastest delivery and offers such as free returns. Zalando has a reputation in the industry for consistently optimizing its own developments.
Numerous employees from the logistics centers reported to NewsABC.net after reporting on Zalando’s Zalos and Zafeto systems and reported on working conditions. You want to remain anonymous. NewsABC.nets also have documents in which a manager from the Zalando logistics center in Erfurt describes everyday work.
In the logistics centers, the employees carry so-called MDEs (Mobile Data Storage). These are devices with which they register the items that have been ordered by customers, ie “pick” them. The system on these MDEs is called Zalos. It shows the employee where the next article is that he has to pick up. It also calculates the exact route for this article for the employee.
The manager from Erfurt cites one important reason for this: The picking area is 100 percent optimized for efficiency and optimized for the number of steps. This is evident from the documents available to NewsABC.net.
Based on the last “pick”, ie the last scanned article and the suggested route to the next article, the team leader knows where employees are. If, for example, they are in a completely different area of the logistics center and start doing picks there, the team leader would quickly notice, the Zalando employees told NewsABC.net.
Zalando employees from the logistics centers, who have spoken to NewsABC.net, feel that their work is closely controlled by this close follow-up. Some say it feels like “they’ll take my breath away.”
NewsABC.net asked Zalando to comment. Zalando did not answer the questions and had a lawyer report it.