Walmart uses “Everseen” AI technology in thousands of its stores “to prevent shoplifting at registers and self-checkout kiosks,” reports Wired.
But some Walmart workers claim that instead it’s often failed to stop actual instances of stealing, misidentified innocuous behavior as theft — and made it harder for them to social distance:
The workers said they had been upset about Walmart’s use of Everseen for years and claimed colleagues had raised concerns about the technology to managers but were rebuked. They decided to speak to the press, they said, after a June 2019 Business Insider article reported Walmart’s partnership with Everseen publicly for the first time. The story described how Everseen uses AI to analyze footage from surveillance cameras installed in the ceiling and can detect issues in real time, such as when a customer places an item in their bag without scanning it. When the system spots something, it automatically alerts store associates…
In interviews, the workers, whose jobs include knowledge of Walmart’s loss-prevention programs, said their top concern with Everseen was false positives at self-checkout. The employees believe that the tech frequently misinterprets innocent behavior as potential shoplifting, which frustrates customers and store associates, and leads to longer lines. “It’s like a noisy tech, a fake AI that just pretends to safeguard,” said one worker.
The coronavirus pandemic has given their concerns more urgency. One Concerned Home Office Associate said they worry false positives could be causing Walmart workers to break social-distancing guidelines unnecessarily. When Everseen flags an issue, a store associate needs to intervene and determine whether shoplifting or another problem is taking place. In an internal communication from April obtained by WIRED, a corporate Walmart manager expressed strong concern that workers were being put at risk by the additional contact necessitated by false positives and asked whether the Everseen system should be turned off to protect customers and workers.
Before COVID-19, “it wasn’t ideal, it was a poor customer experience,” the worker said. “AI is now creating a public health risk.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.