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steven36

Walmart Patents Audio Surveillance Tool to Monitor Employee Conversations

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steven36
Posted (edited)

Retail colossus Walmart just patented a new technology meant to monitor employee productivity via audio surveillance of checkout counters. The technology, which Walmart calls “listening to the frontend,” aims to increase employee efficiency by using sensors to monitor sounds that can indicate how long lines are, how many bags are being used, and, most unnervingly, conversations among employees or between employees and customers.

 

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Unlike competitor Amazon, Walmart has the burden of physical retail stores, which costs more money than Amazon’s largely automated warehouse and delivery systems. So it’s unsurprising that they’re looking to squeeze as much productivity out of their workers as possible.

 

Right now, this is just a patent, and it’s unknown whether Walmart will ever develop it. But it shows that Walmart is following in Amazon’s footsteps when it comes to finding new and inventive methods of invasive employee surveillance. When asked for comment, Walmart told BuzzFeed News, “We’re always thinking about new concepts and ways that will help us further enhance how we serve customers, but we don’t have any further details to share on these patents at this time.”

 

BuzzFeed explains how this technology would work:

Quote

 

Based on the application, Walmart’s patented surveillance system would use a series of sensors in the cashier area to collect audio data — everything from “beeps” to “rustling noises” to “conversations between guests and an employee stationed at the terminal.”

It would then analyze this information and use it to calculate various “performance metric” for the employee.

 

Most invasively, the system could also be used to analyze voices of customers and guests to see if they’re interacting, and even to listen to what they’re saying. “If however the performance metric is based on the content of the conversation (e.g., was a specific greeting used or script followed), the system can process the audio detected by the sound sensors 102 (e.g., using speech recognition) to determine the performance metric,” the patent description explains.

 

This Big Brother-style surveillance feels icky, especially from a retail giant known for its terrible abuses of its underpaid employees. But according to Ifeoma Ajunwa, an assistant professor at Cornell’s Industrial and Labor Relations School, there’s nothing in labor laws that prevents this kind of practice.

 

“There’s sometimes a misconception that the consent of employees is required for surveillance, but frankly, as long as the employer can make an argument for why the surveillance is necessary for a business purpose as opposed to a discriminatory purpose, there’s no law that says consent is required,” Ajunwa told BuzzFeed.

 

Though there are some legitimate reasons why a company like Walmart might want to listen to its employees, the risks for abuse are great.

 

Ajunwa tells BuzzFeed:

Quote

The sound recording is helpful for determining if the line is too long, let’s automatically open a new cashier. But then 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.’ 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. There’s a lot of potential for misuse.”

 

 

Furthermore, surveillance of this kind is known to actually make employee productivity worse. “Several studies have shown that there is a psychological impact of pervasive surveillance,” Ajunwa said. It tends to increase resistance from employees towards management, who feel, rightly, that they’re in an oppositional relationship.

 

The only way to control this kind of surveillance, other than the benevolence of the employer, is if through demands by an employee union. But as we all know, Walmart employees have no union, thanks to relentless union-busting campaigns by the company.

 

Walmart is the country’s largest employer, which means technology like this, if implemented, would have an impact on millions of Americans. It seems we don’t need an authoritarian state to monitor our every thought—our biggest corporations are happy to do it for us.

 

Source

 

 

Edited by steven36

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spudboy
Posted (edited)

Call centers, customer service, etc already record telephone calls for purpose of employing training purposes & to make sure they're doing their job correctly. This is really no differernt at all & I'm fine with it. I mean, if a person is THAT paranoid about what you and a Walmart caashier say to each other being recorded & listened to, maybe you shouldn't be discussing it in public in the first place. Don't you think there are other customers around listening anyway? What's the difference if some other stranger hears it? Not to mention anyone at any time could be recording you with their cell phone anyway. Nothing to see here but tin foil, unless you're speaking to a Walmart cashier and/or other people nearby about criminal activity or private information. Which again, why are you talking about it in public to begin with? There are plenty of other ears around besides the monitoring devices.

Edited by spudboy

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steven36
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, spudboy said:

Call centers, customer service, etc already record telephone calls for purpose of employing training purposes & to make sure they're doing their job correctly. This is really no differernt at all & I'm fine with it. I mean, if a person is THAT paranoid about what you and a Walmart caashier say to each other being recorded & listened to, maybe you shouldn't be discussing it in public in the first place. Don't you think there are other customers around listening anyway? What's the difference if some other stranger hears it? Not to mention anyone at any time could be recording you with their cell phone anyway. Nothing to see here but tin foil, unless you're a criminal & speaking to a Walmart cashier and/or other people nearby about criminal activity.

Already they video record everything you do as soon as you get out of you're car , Just like call centers ,  im on the do not call list  and if i dont know who you are  on my caller ID you're call dont get answered.. i think phones are most annoying devices ever made . People  you dont even know just call and call and annoy the piss out of you. I hate going to Walmart while they may sell things that  spy on you id much rather just order something from amazon in the privacy of my own home.  I been buying stuff online since the early 2000s.

 

Walmart coming to small town America was worse  than them sending jobs to China .. They caused 1000s of locally owned mom and pop shops to shut down across the USA  because they cant  compete  and when i go there they dont have what i want ,most of the time,  so it's a waste of gas and i have to order it offline so i dont even bother going there very often.. They sell off the wall stuff ,not even stuff from my region that was in the stores before they took over everything. Were you live may be a surveillance state and you're use too it, but were i live  there are no cameras or people recording you unless you go to that crowded mess they call Walmart , you can even go in the woods and go naked if you wish . :P

 

  Its 30 miles to any other big stores like Walmart from here. And the Walmart there has more stuff than the one in my  town does , because here they have a problem with even keeping stuff in stock because there no other big stores around . I  dont like going there, who wants to fight with hoards of people to buy something  when I  can have it here from online in one day and it will be exactly what i want . I have  Amazon Prime,  Free Same-Day Delivery or Free One-Day Shipping on over a million items with qualifying orders ... 

 

And for stuff not sold in the USA i can buy it if from others online without any hassle because many places all over the world take Amazon Pay. Even places that dont take Paypal take it... Walmart is so 20th century  in the computer age were everything is just a web site away.

Edited by steven36

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dhjohns

Where I live there are plenty of stores to choose from.  There are a few Walmart's but they carry shit products.  Poor selection, and crap.  That is Walmart.

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