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Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:00 PM

*WALMART Patents 'Big Brother-Style' Tech to Surveille Workers' Conversations

Last edited Fri Jul 13, 2018, 01:03 AM - Edit history (1)

'Walmart Patents "Big Brother-Style" Surveillance Technology to Eavesdrop on Workers' Conversations,' By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams, July 12, 2018.

Just the latest corporation to spark privacy concerns over worker surveillance efforts, Walmart has patented audio technology that would allow the retail giant to eavesdrop on conversations among employees and between clerks and shoppers, to measure employee performance. According to the patent document filed with the U.S. government, Walmart is calling the invention "listening to the frontend." The patent reads, in part:
- Many different types of sounds result from people in a shopping facility. For example, guests of the shopping facility may talk amongst each other or with employees of the shopping facility. Additionally, guests and employee movements and activities can generate additional sounds. A need exists for ways to capture the sounds resulting from the people in the shopping facility and determine performance of employees based on those sounds.-

In addition to capturing conversations, according to the patent, Walmart's spy system could also track the length of lines at the checkout counter, how many items are scanned, and the number of bags employees use. Although the technology could, for example, determine if a line is too long and more cashier lanes need to open, Ifeoma Ajunwa, an assistant professor at Cornell University's Industrial and Labor Relations School, told BuzzFeed News, "There's a lot of potential for misuse."
"There's potential for mission creep where it's more like, 'as a cashier you're too friendly, you're talking too much, and therefore not moving people along, so let's penalize you,'" Ajunwa explained. "Even though the technology is presented as interested in one thing, the fact that it has the potential for both things to be captured is of concern."

While the patent claims that "tracking performance metrics for employees to ensure that the employees are performing their jobs efficiently and correctly can aid in achieving these costs savings [for the company] and increases in guest satisfaction," Ajunwa said that "several studies have shown that there is a psychological impact of pervasive surveillance," pointing to findings that it can actually "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."

"This Big Brother-style surveillance feels icky, especially from a retail giant known for its terrible abuses of its underpaid employees," Splinter noted, but although the patent is raising privacy and labor rights concerns, Ajunwa warned that Walmart has a legal leg to stand on and likely wouldn't even have to notify employees.- and a union may be able to negotiate a contract requiring disclosure and potentially even other rules about the system, but Walmart is notorious for union-busting through surveillance, intimidation, and retaliation.

"Walmart is the country's largest employer, which means technology like this, if implemented, would have an impact on millions of Americans," Splinter highlighted. "It seems we don't need an authoritarian state to monitor our every thought-our biggest corporations are happy to do it for us."..https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/07/12/walmart-patents-big-brother-style-surveillance-technology-eavesdrop-workers



- Walmart is raising labor and privacy concerns with its new surveillance technology patent.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:05 PM

1. "Told ya" says Orwell's corpse...

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Response to dhill926 (Reply #1)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:06 PM

2. "1984" Coming true, eek! Dystopian novel pub. 1949 by English author George Orwell.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:20 PM

3. I am right this minute watching a documentary on Hulu about the destruction of America by Walmart

It is pretty sickening.

They describe and quantify the amount of money spent by Medicaid to cover workers. They break down the structure of how they intimidate workers from unions and how much they spend to do this. Many workers and even ex managers tell of the horrors of the corporation. You see towns destroyed.

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Response to trixie2 (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:50 PM

7. Yes & owners support privatizing schools I believe, maybe other projects.

Whatever the *documentary is, if you care to share, it sounds interesting.

At the end of the article, it notes that AMAZON recently implemented bracelets to track and time workers.

Also CALL ENTERS have been recording and taping employees and basing evaluations on the info. for some time.

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Response to appalachiablue (Reply #7)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 10:20 AM

11. Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices

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Response to trixie2 (Reply #11)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 10:28 AM

12. Thanks! I remember the title now.

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:35 PM

4. And now we have another reason to boycott this place

They are creepy enough already..

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:38 PM

5. If we are "guests" in these stores, how come we have to pay for things?


Shouldn't our "hosts" be offering us free stuff, as guests are supposedly entitled to??
I've never been a guest at a dinner where I was presented with a bill for what I ate.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #5)

Thu Jul 12, 2018, 10:44 PM

6. Lol with this brand. Along w/ homes, 'guest' can mean hotel, restaurant, club-

aka the 'hospitality' industry as it's now called. But I agree that since they use the term, freebies and nice treatment should be included.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #5)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 06:03 AM

8. I loathed that term when it was foisted upon us

Years ago during my 4+ decades in Retail, the folks shopping were Customers, not guests and I absolutely refused to use it. Likewise I would not refer to myself or co-workers as Teammates. I hired on as an employee and I retired as an employee. The trendy buzzwords of the rocket scientists at the Ivory Tower notwithstanding.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #5)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 09:40 AM

10. Fun fact: they used to do this at Scottish homes.

A "guest" would be presented with a bill for gratuities to the servants who attended him on his stay. Went out of style in the 18th century.

-- Mal

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 09:37 AM

9. Christ, that patent excerpt reads like an 8 year old wrote it.

The Test to Destruction of the human worker continues: just how much and by what means can we squeeze more "productivity" out of them before they collapse?

-- Mal

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Response to appalachiablue (Original post)

Fri Jul 13, 2018, 12:18 PM

13. "Walmart is the country's largest employer" Not in terms of salary and benefits...

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