The audio surveillance system Walmart designed is composed of several sensors that can collect all kinds of audio data, including beeps and the rustling of paper bags. Any data it gathers can be used to assess an employee’s performance — for instance, the sounds items make when they’re placed inside a bag can tell the company how efficient someone is at bagging purchases. Customers’ voices can also indicate how long a line is and how quickly a cashier can get through all of them.
As BuzzFeed News points, though, the most invasive feature is the system’s ability to understand conversations and use them to judge an employee’s performance: “If however the performance metric is based on the content of the conversation (e.g., was a specific greeting used or script followed), the system can process the audio detected by the sound sensors 102 (e.g., using speech recognition) to determine the performance metric.” It could get chattier cashiers in trouble even if they’re customer favorites for being helpful and friendly.
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