Walmart Corporation has been granted a patent that allows them to add recording devices in its stores. It's not just the typical security cameras, though. The devices are actual audio recording devices and some people say the patent could be a breach of privacy.
The patent is named Listening to the Frontend. According to the patent document, "A need exists for ways to capture the sounds resulting from people in the shopping facility and determine performance of employees based on those sounds."
One of the reasons for the audio recording devices, according to the patent, is that employee efficiency/performance can help decrease costs for Walmart and increase satisfaction for customers. The patent states, "Tracking performance metrics for employees to ensure that the employees are performing their jobs efficiently and correctly can aid in achieving these costs savings and increases in guest satisfaction.
Billings resident, Mike Runkle told KULR-8, "I think it's ease dropping and they shouldn't be doing that. If they want to find out what the customer interaction is between the customer and the cashiers, then they actually need to get more supervisors on the floor."
The patent said one way to track performance metrics is the use of a system near cash registers. Audio data captured can be used to determine a variety of performance metrics. For example, the patent states that the sound sensors can capture noises when a cashier scans an item, as well as sounds created by bags. Based on the noises produced, the system can determine the number of items that were scanned in each transaction.
While the company is privately owned, Montana is a state where, for example, if one person is recording a conversation with another person, both parties have to know they are being recorded. Heather Moos, a resident explained how she was not surprised to hear about the patent. "I'm not surprised that Walmart is putting microphones everywhere. They've already got cameras everywhere. It's just the way this society seems to be trending these days. Big Brothers everywhere. Not surprising. But, I don't shop at walmart so they won't be getting anything that we're saying."
Many people assume Walmart will put signage of the new recording devices so customers will be aware when they walk into the store. "I would assume Walmart would have to put signage up saying you're being recorded. Not just video but voice also," said Dennis Dinger, a Billings resident.
You can read more from the patent at this link: https://bit.ly/2uRuqL8