Big Brother Walmart | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Big Brother Walmart

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2018 at 9:23 AM

click to enlarge sensor.png

Buzzfeed reports on technology patented by Walmart audio sensors — that could allow them to monitor worker productivity and, incidentally, listen in on conversations with customers and others. There are privacy concerns.

“The sound sensors can capture audio data based on interactions between the employee and the guests, interactions between the guests, and sounds resulting from movement and/or actions of the employees and/or guests.”

There's no indication the technology is now in use. Walmart issued a statement later:

“We file patents frequently but that doesn’t mean the patents will actually be implemented. We’re always thinking about new concepts and ways that will help us further enhance how we serve customers. This patent is a concept that would help us gather metrics and improve the checkout process by listening to sounds produced by the bags, carts and cash registers and not intended for any other use.”

Good idea? Depends on your point of view.

“Employee efficiency and performance can help decrease costs for a shopping facility as well as increase guest satisfaction,” the patent reads. “Tracking performance metrics for employees to ensure that the employees are performing their jobs efficiently and correctly can aid in achieving these costs savings and increases in guest satisfaction.”

But Ifeoma Ajunwa, an assistant professor at Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, told BuzzFeed News that surveilling employees can actually have the opposite effect. “Several studies have shown that there is a psychological impact of pervasive surveillance,” Ajunwa said. She cited the work of Harvard professor Ethan Bernstein, who found that workplace surveillance “can lead to this opposition feeling, where employees view the employer not as benevolent, but as dictators. And it can impact that attitude toward the higher-up and can lead to resistance.”

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