A recent social media post about Walmart photos taken at self-checkout stands has raised personal privacy concerns.
Since identity theft and other tech scams are rising, people have good reason to be concerned. Understanding how thieves get information or why companies trade personal data can be overwhelming.
We’re looking into why Walmart takes photos of customers at their self-checkout stands, and why it’s of concern to some shoppers.
Let’s check it out!
TikToker Warns Users of Sketchy Walmart Photo Security
Former Walmart employee AshtheTruth told her TikTok followers that the company harvests personal information every time they use the self-checkout stands. She claims a photo is taken of the customer and then stored in a file.
AshtheTruth warns that Walmart also keeps your credit card info on file. She claims she’s seen cameras capture and store images of shoppers’ IDs, phone, and other personal information. The danger from all this is Walmart’s ability to sell or surrender personal info to third parties.
“I don’t recommend using credit cards if you’re trying to do anything janky, my dude,” says AshtheTruth.
Viewers commented with differing opinions. Some applaud the reveal as evidence that “they” want to control “us,” so we should use cash. Others point to the post as fear-mongering to get more eyes on her account. Since employees still check receipts at the door, some questioned the conspiracy theory.
Does Walmart Take Photos of Customers at Self-Checkout?
Yes, but in a security system kind of way. As self-checkout machines become more common, so does stealing. Thefts are four times more likely to happen at self-checkouts than with a clerk.
So photos can help in case someone is trying to skirt the system. If a perpetrator is caught on camera afterwards, Walmart can share photos and information with their other stores to catch them next time.
Photos are part of an overall asset protection system Walmart uses to watch customers as well as employees. Cameras are all over the store, so taking photos at checkout is part of the safety protocol.
The Past, Present, and Future of Walmart
Wamart’s first store opened in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. Owner Sam Walton came from a long line of store management. He wanted his store to offer the lowest prices around. So with the help of his extended family, Walton Markets, or Walmart, spread like wildfire.
By the 1980s, Walmart Supercenters opened, combining supermarkets with regular merchandise. Walton’s supercenters became the model for big box stores. As the innovations kept coming, Walmart started Sams Club to offer discounts to small businesses buying in bulk.
When Walmart became America’s top retailer in the 90s, the company started giving back to the community. They donated millions of dollars worth in goods to help victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And by 2013 Walmart implemented national programs to help discharged veterans get jobs.
The low-price, one-stop-shop model isn’t for everyone. And even though Walmart claims commitment to sustainable agriculture, it’s not exactly like shopping at your local farmers’ market. But in 2022, the convenience and global brand offer comfort to many shoppers.
After 60 years in business, the odds are that Walmart isn’t going anywhere.
Is Walmart Getting Sued for Taking Photos of Customers?
Joseph Carlos Velasquez sued Walmart in 2018 for violating California privacy laws. According to Velasquez, the self-checkout security camera gets too close and records personal identification information like eye color and facial features. If photos taken at Walmart self-checkout stands get biometric data like hair color, customers are theoretically more vulnerable to identity theft.
Walmart filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and said there’s no evidence that what they record can be used for identity theft. The company also stated Velasquez could have gone to the teller and used cash if their self-checkout system worried him.
Unfortunately, we still don’t know the results of the lawsuit. Either way, the debate over security photos continues.
Why Does Walmart Store Customer Data and Photos?
Walmart’s model is founded on the American dream. For a giant store, this means selling as many products as possible with increasing efficiency. With advancements in technology, Walmart has an entire tech team dedicated to big data analysis.
What the heck does that mean? The phrase “big data” describes a continually growing amount of information stored in a particular area of business. Walmart collects this data on its customers for one purpose only – to boost sales. This means they’ll know when to stock popular items in the front of the store.
Walmart also makes shopping easier by offering virtual try-on options using your phone. But this means they record every move, click, or action we take inside their stores.
Is It Safe to Shop at Walmart?
Before worrying if big brother is watching you, remember that many stores use big data. Monitoring people for commercial profit is called data mining and is used regularly by businesses.
Data mining allows stores like Walmart, Target, and millions of other companies to identify trends and improve the shopping experience for customers. But it also provides store security.
Retail theft is on the rise. So much so that it’s becoming a form of organized crime involving multiple thieves.
You may notice more products locked behind cases. For better or worse, photos, videos, and surveillance taken by Walmart and other retail stores offer necessary security.
Consumers can read Walmart’s extensive privacy notice for details on how they use customer information.
Can Walmart Legally Take Photos of Customers?
Yes, for the most part they can. But the answer is location dependent. The photos taken at Walmart’s self-checkout primarily function as security guards. But as with other cameras around the store, some personal data may be logged from the images.
It’s another story when it comes to Walmart’s virtual try-on phone app. Legality gets tricky because your phone gives the company a more detailed image. Biometric data, like waist size and skin color, can help shoppers find the right clothes. But Walmart abides by privacy laws stating that the company must disclose that it’s collecting this data.
Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act, or BIPA, makes using things like facial recognition without consent illegal. This kind of data can result in false results and discrimination against women and people of color. As a result, more states are enacting the law, making it easier for customers to sue big businesses.
Should You Shop at Walmart?
Whether or not you shop at Walmart depends on much more than if they take photos of people at the checkout. Thinking about what the chain offers you versus the potential risk of data mining may help you decide. Walmart is no different than most other well-known stores these days.
Yes, your personal information is stored somewhere. And maybe using cash only, and skipping online sales, will deflect some of that. But if you’re concerned about companies storing your personal data, shopping at smaller, locally-owned stores might be a better choice for you.
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