Walmart patents audio surveillance technology to record customers and employees

Walmart patents audio surveillance technology to record customers and employees

Walmart wants to listen to its workers and shoppers more. A lot more.

America’s largest retailer has patented surveillance technology that could essentially spy on cashiers and customers by collecting audio data in stores. The proposal raises questions about how recordings of conversations would be used and whether the practice would even be legal in some Walmart stores.

“This is a very bad idea,” Sam Lester, consumer privacy counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., told CBS News. “If they do decide to implement this technology, the first thing we would want and expect is to know which privacy expectations are in place.”

Walmart’s patent filing says the “sound sensors” would focus on minute details of the shopping and checkout experience, such as the beeps of item scanners and the rustling of bags, and they could also pick up conversations of workers and customers. It’s unclear so far how that chatter could be used.

“We’ve made it perfectly clear in the patent that all sounds will be picked up, including voice,” Walmart’s director of corporate communications Ragan Dickens told CBS News. “But we’ve also made clear the intent” of the technology, Dickens added…. more

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