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AI Surveillance Of Shoppers: Walmart’s Newest Tool To Grab Your Data

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ai surveillance of shoppers

Walmart’s AI surveillance of shoppers is yet another chapter in the ongoing fight for consumer data protection in America. (Photo Credit: Mike Mozart / CC BY 2.0 / (MGN))

Walmart is beginning to use AI surveillance of shoppers on Long Island in a move that is bound to generate some major privacy concerns. In particular, Walmart uses its artificial intelligence (AI) to get vast amounts of data about customer behavior.

To elaborate, AI observes shoppers through cameras at a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Levittown, New York, Tech Crunch reports. So, AI watches shoppers as they buy food for their families.

Tech Crunch claims Walmart only uses the data that AI gathers to determine inventory levels. However, Walmart admits to collecting 1.6 terabytes (one million bites) of customer-behavior data per second in an on-site data center. Ironically, the data center computers are on display to the public.


Walmart Experiments On Shoppers

Notably, Walmart is conducting a behavioral science experiment on Long Island shoppers. For example, Walmart calls the Levittown Neighborhood Market the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL).

Moreover, Walmart concedes that the IRL’s purpose is to test technology in a real-world environment. In essence, Walmart is experimenting on customers. People are basically paying for the experience of being Walmart’s guinea pigs.

Walmart’s in-house think tank and incubator Store No 8 runs the IRL. Specifically, they named Store No 8 for the first Walmart that Sam Walton opened in Morrilton, Arkansas, in 1962.

The Morrilton outlet was the eighth discount store Walton opened. Nevertheless, it was the first store to carry the Walmart name.

Store No 8 is experimenting with a wide variety of technologies including robotics, AI, machine learning, robot process automation, virtual reality (VR), and deep learning. Store No 8 is located in Hoboken, New Jersey, and New York City, but not in Walmart’s hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas.


What Is Walmart Doing On Long Island?

Walmart’s artificial intelligence can learn a lot about customers. For instance, the AI can tell what products you buy. Additionally, the AI can discern and analyze patterns of customer behavior.

Nonetheless, neither Tech Crunch nor Store No 8 reveals what Walmart does with all the data that their AI system gathers. Meanwhile, Walmart is recruiting data engineers to work at Store No 8’s “Project Franklin” in Brooklyn.

Store No 8’s website describes “Project Franklin” as “a stealth-mode startup operating independently within Walmart’s tech incubator.” The website does not say what Project Franklin has to do with the IRL. Notwithstanding, its Brooklyn residence is on Long Island just like the Levittown store is.

All in all, Walmart probably named Project Franklin after the Ben Franklin discount stores. Notably, Sam Walton ran Ben Franklin franchises before opening Walmart.


Walmart’s AI Is Watching You

Walmart wants customer data to see how and why people buy merchandise.

For example, Walmart could see what groups of people buy which products. In addition, Walmart could discern what patterns prompt you to buy more expensive items.

Walmart could also use AI to watch for shoplifting, vandalism, and other destructive customer behavior. Significantly, AI can already alert Walmart associates to empty shelves.

As a result, it is safe to assume that AI will soon direct Walmart security or even the police to shoplifting suspects. Furthermore, AI could spot which customers need help and send associates to assist them.

Artificial intelligence is now giving human employees orders at the IRL as well. To explain, Walmart’s AI already tells IRL associates which shelves to stock and where to find outdated foods, Tech Crunch reports.


Will Walmart Sell Or Share Your Data?

Finally, Walmart could sell the data their AI collects. Particularly, Wibson (a data marketplace) estimates that the average individual’s personal data could be worth over $240 a year.

In addition, there are many companies that could pay Walmart for data about your shopping behavior. For example, Procter & Gamble, which makes Tide, will want to know how you behave in the laundry detergent aisle.

Moreover, Walmart and Procter & Gamble could use the data to increase Tide sales. In fact, AI could discern what shelf people are most likely to look at and take products from.

Ultimately, Walmart’s AI surveillance gives customers another reason to shop elsewhere or even online instead.

You may also enjoy reading an additional Off The Grid News article: Google Spies On Gamers With “Stadia”, Its New Streaming Service

Or download our free 47-page report that discusses the coming of the great American surveillance state: Surveillance Nation

What are your thoughts on Walmart’s AI surveillance of shoppers? Let us know in the comments below.

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