Walmart Employees Are Out To Show Its Anti-Shoplifting AI Doesn't Work

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In January, my coworker received a peculiar email. The message, which she forwarded to me, was from a handful of corporate Walmart employees calling themselves the “Concerned Home Office Associates.” (Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, is often referred to as the Home Office.) While it’s not unusual for journalists to receive anonymous tips, they don’t usually come with their own slickly produced videos. The employees said they were “past their breaking point” with Everseen, a small artificial intelligence firm based in Cork, Ireland, whose technology Walmart began using in 2017. Walmart uses Everseen in thousands of stores to prevent shoplifting at registers and self-checkout kiosks. But the workers claimed it misidentified innocuous behavior as theft and often failed to stop actual instances of stealing.

They told WIRED they were dismayed that their employer — one of the largest retailers in the world — was relying on AI they believed was flawed. One worker said that the technology was sometimes even referred to internally as “NeverSeen” because of its frequent mistakes. WIRED granted the employees anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the press. 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. A video from the Concerned Home Office Associates “purports to show Everseen’s technology failing to flag items not being scanned in three different Walmart stores,” adds the report. “Set to cheery elevator music, it begins with a person using self-checkout to buy two jumbo packages of Reese’s White Peanut Butter Cups. Because the packages are stacked on top of each other, only one is scanned, but both are successfully placed in the bagging area without issue.”

“The same person then grabs two gallons of milk by their handles and moves them across the scanner with one hand. Only one is rung up, but both are put in the bagging area. They then put their own cell phone on top of the machine, and an alert pops up saying they need to wait for assistance — a false positive.”

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Source: Slashdot – Walmart Employees Are Out To Show Its Anti-Shoplifting AI Doesn’t Work

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