Walmart and Amazon file patents that increase workers surveillance

Sep 26, 2018

A new Big Brother era may be coming to a store near you and even be part of your work environment soon.

This month Walmart was awarded a US patent for a new listening system for its stores that could pick up communications from shoppers and workers alike, raising privacy concerns.

According to the filing with the United States Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO), the system would capture sounds in the store, monitoring employees’ performance and effectiveness at checkout.

This is done in the name of efficiency since the system intended purpose is to measure the beeps sounds at the scanner, the number of bags used, and the number of items per transaction, among other information. However, this system would be picking up shoppers conversations to determine the time spent at the checkout.

Now, relax. The system has not been implemented yet at any Walmart store and it may not be implemented ever. It is a known fact that big companies file patents to protect inventions that may be used in the future just to have a big box of tools at their disposal.

Walmart is not the only company quietly moving towards this Big Brother scenario.

The online publication Gizmodo is reporting on Amazon’s new patent application that will certainly cause concerns for privacy advocates.

Amazon, the online retail giant filed a controversial patent of an ultrasonic bracelet that can be used to surveil workers in addition to an augmented reality goggle made for warehouse employees.

The devices purposes are to help the employees navigate the sprawling warehouses, many of them over a million square feet. These devices will guide the workers through the vast array shelves and products.

Amazon already tracks a great amount of employee data to assure that everyone reaches their goals daily.

As in the Walmart’s’ case, these systems have not been implemented but Gizmodo says, “it gives an indication of the company’s thinking. Holistically, Amazon seems intent to ramp up surveillance, both internally and as a vendor product for law enforcement”.

The Walmart patent was already awarded, but Amazon’s patent is still in the filing process.

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