Wal-Mart Pulls Plug On Facial Recognition Loss Prevention System

Wal-mart has abandoned a shoplifter identification system after test trial over several months and multiple states, due to insufficient ROI. Assuming they knew the costs roughly before beginning, this implies they were let down by the performance of the system.

Walmart’s experiment, which it ended after several months, highlights the powerful high-tech tools available to retailers to reduce theft. However, it also raises questions about whether stores should have to follow rules when using the technology to protect shoppers’ privacy.


In general, mega security users like Wal-Mart evaluate many technologies and products.

Fortune's title is unfair and misleading: "Walmart’s Use of Sci-fi Tech To Spot Shoplifters Raises Privacy Questions" What real privacy questions? They did a test and rejected it.

Btw, Facefirst has always struck me as a suspicious marketing first company, even compared to other facial recognition offerings.

I think the novel thing here is just the Walmart statement, there are plenty of hashing and re-hashings all over the Internet about privacy, so no loss there.

But most corporations don't talk about pilots that don't work out. And once they actually roll-out they are even more loathe to say anything negative.

For example, this casino that self-excludes gamblers using a $5,000,000 system, mentioned in another thread. It's easy to find plenty of articles generally positive about it, yet when you find the few that are negative you might change your mind about its real effectiveness.

I am curious how this even got out. I seriously doubt Wal-Mart said anything to anyone. So was it Face First or who?

In terms of Walmart saying anything, they might have felt they needed to squash this and that it was better to confirm they are not using it then leaving it unanswered, letting people assume it was in ongoing use.

Here's a conspiracy theorist who claims it's the Bosch Flexidome with IVA. Bosch probably never imagined anyone one attaching such sinister significance to every word in their marketing.

Apparently though they have yet to remove the packing foam from the dome, so no real threat yet!

Saw this article last month. There is nothing in the article that suggests Walmart expressed any questions about privacy.

"However, it also raises questions about whether stores should have to follow rules when using the technology to protect shoppers’ privacy".

The privacy questions seem to be coming only from the author. Thanks John, you are right. That headline tied two things together that were not related. Not fair, at a minimum not accurate.

And that last post (also unrelated) is from a nut job who can look up the capabilities of IVA, a nut job none the less!

There is nothing in the article that suggests Walmart expressed any questions about privacy.

True, though at the same time there is nothing in the title that suggests Walmart expressed any questions about privacy:

Walmart’s Use of Sci-fi Tech To Spot Shoplifters Raises Privacy Questions

Which would be similar to

NSA's Capturing of Phone Metadata to Catch Terrorists Raises Privacy Questions

where we would not expect anything except an editorial about what this means from someone NOT in the NSA.

I was expecting to read the usual privacy law mishmash and I wasn't disappointed.

However, I could have cared less about the privacy implications and so made my title:

Wal-Mart Pulls Plug On Facial Recognition Loss Prevention System

because a huge corporation admitting that Face Rec wasn't worth the cost IS noteworthy. But only to us, not to the general Fortune reader.

Lastly, I included the tenuously related video in response to John's inquiry about what system was used. Although I doubt that Bosch IVA was handling Face Rec, they do appear to be Bosch Flexidome cameras mounted at a face rec height, and so possibly were part of the pilot, or a new initiative perhaps. But mostly I posted the video for humor.

Serious, more credible conspiracy theorist from Computerworld magazine who speculates the whole thing was a failed CRM. The evidence though seems a bit thin.

Walmart told Fortune this week that it had surreptitiously used facial-recognition software to try to identify shoppers. This was unusual for Walmart, and in fact it was nearly heresy. That’s because the multi-month-long effort failed, and Walmart just doesn’t admit to failure.

But it’s also because it told Fortune that the effort was part of a security program. In retail, security is simply never discussed. Ever.