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Walmart outlines post-COVID checkout system that tracks and profiles customers

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Retail giant Walmart is taking a page out of US airports’ book when it comes to implementing technology that identifies and tracks customers.

According to Walmart’s chief customer officer Jane Whiteside, airports, that in recent decades became proficient in tracking and profiling people, have been an inspiration because like in Walmart stores, people need to get somewhere quickly, but might need help navigating the space.

The way Walmart is doing this is by heavily promoting the use of Walmart Pay and Scan & Go apps among shoppers, promising not only to help them find their way around the stores and to the items they are looking to buy, but also apparently to protect them and others from coronavirus, if, that is, they pay by using the apps.

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But beside throwing in a reference to the greatest health saga of our generation to convince more people to download and install the apps, what is clear is that their true and primary purpose is to track customers and their phones.

The terms of use for Walmart Pay explain that the customer agrees to authorize their mobile operator to hand over to Walmart their name, address, phone number, email, and a host of other details identifying a subscriber and their device (such as IMSI and IMEI identifiers.)

All this information is harvested and becomes available not only to Walmart – but also to what is referred to as “third party service providers.” Through the identifiers and once logged in to Walmart’s Bluetooth beacon system, shoppers can be easily identified, and together with other surveillance methods like video from security cameras, this information is combined to profile each person’s shopping habits in detail.

It would appear that the push to promote the apps has simply to do with “improving” Walmart’s business rather than, as marketed, protect customers from Covid, or make their lives easier.

On the contrary – their lives could get much more complicated if anything goes wrong, security-wise, because Walmart is taking no responsibility, as the payment section of the terms of use explains.

That includes damages or losses caused by anything from computer glitches to hacker attacks.

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