In countries where the privacy of individuals is not well protected, rules that appear to come out of futuristic films may apply. Walmart has just patented a new technology aimed at monitoring employee productivity through audio surveillance at checkouts.
It is a system that uses sensors to monitor sounds that can indicate how long they are working, how many bags are used and conversations between employees or between employees and customers.
At the moment it is just a patent, and it is unknown if Walmart will ever develop it. The company told BuzzFeed News that they are always thinking of new concepts and ways to help further improve the way they serve customers, but did not elaborate on the project itself.
Beeps, crunching noises, conversations … nothing will escape the presented technology, data that will be analyzed automatically to identify specific patterns and reach conclusions. The goal is to have performance metrics for the employee, but the voices of customers and guests could also be analyzed to see if they interact and even to hear what they say.
In the United States, there is no law that consent is mandatory as long as surveillance is necessary for a commercial and non-discriminatory purpose, so something like this could be applied without many problems. Of course, there could always be lawsuits from an employee union, but in this case Walmart employees have no union, as the company has conducted several anti-union campaigns in recent years.