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Walmart employees say its anti-shoplifting AI is complete trash

In the wake of COVID-19, false positives can increase the risk of exposure to employees and customers.

walmart cart in store
Image: TalkMarket

Last year, a Business Insider report looked at Walmart’s anti-shoplifting AI technology from the Ireland-based technology firm, Everseen. Now, a new report from Wired details just how lacking the software can be, according to insiders at Walmart.

Wired was tipped off via email from a group calling themselves the “Concerned Home Office Associates.” This is a reference to Walmart’s headquarters, located in Arkansas, which is commonly referred to as the “Home Office.” The email included a video that was produced and edited from the group showing just how lacking the AI software is when it comes to identifying actual shoplifters at self-checkout stations.

In addition to just flat-out missing actual instances of shoplifting (the video shows members of the Concerned Home Office Associates running various tests to show how easy it is to trick the software) the bigger issue, according to the group, and reports from Huffington Post, is that the false-positives put employees at unnecessary risks.

In the video, which sadly isn’t available to watch, it shows how the system misses issues of theft but then gets confused when the person puts their smartphone on the self-checkout scanner. It alerts Walmart employees to the issue and tells the customer to wait for assistance. Now, this isn’t definitive proof that the whole system is a failure, but in a world of COVID-19, these false-positives can put both employees and customers at additional risks.

This sentiment is echoed by some corporate employees of the company in the reports by Wired and Huffington Post. One employee (unnamed) noted that workers were being put at risk because of this, and questioning whether or not the AI technology should be turned off while we all deal with COVID-19 and minimizing close interactions with other people.

Walmart’s statement on the issue echoes that of typical corporate-speak, telling Wired, “We assess our technology regularly, and as evident with the large scale implementation of Everseen across the chain, we have confidence it is currently meeting our standards.” They went on to say that the false-positives were not widespread.

Overall, it’s an interesting conversation and thought exercise regarding person-to-person contact in the wake of COVID-19. That said, a Walmart spokesperson has said they have not looked at turning Everseen off at any of its locations.

If you’d like to read more on this, make sure to check out the in-depth report over at Wired.

What do you think? Do you think this is an issue? Should Walmart stop using Everseen for the time being? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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