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Just Walk Out Technology

Just Walk Out technology (JWO) enables shoppers to simply enter a store, take what they want and just leave, enabling a seamless shopping experience. JWO is based on artificial intelligence, image recognition and sensors. These specific sensors are usually placed on the aisles/shelves of the shop to know what the shopper picks up and whenever the product is being moved or placed somewhere else. Additionally, cameras are placed all around the shop in all aisles, racks, store walls, etc.  The shopper, before entering the store, is required to have a specific mobile application that processes the necessary information regarding their personal profile and preferred payment method. 

This new way of shopping can be summarised in four simple steps:

  1. The customers scan a code on their phone when they enter the store.
  2. When they pick something off the shelf, it is automatically added to their virtual cart.
  3. If they put something back on the shelf, it is automatically removed from their virtual cart. 
  4. Once they have what they need, they just leave the store and their credit card will be automatically charged for the items they purchased.

If shoppers need a receipt, they can visit a kiosk inside the store and enter their email address; the receipt will then be emailed to them for that shopping trip and for any subsequent ones when using the same credit card.

While Amazon and Alibaba - which respectively launched Amazon Go and Hema - were the only two players developing JWO, many new players are entering the market all over the world, including a few European retailers.

Positive foreseen impacts on data protection:

  • No positive impacts on data protection have been identified for the moment: taking into consideration the early deployment of the technology in the market, there are no specific positive outcomes in relation to data protection. The situation may change in the case of a different design and configuration of the technology embedding privacy enhancing features.

Negative foreseen impacts on data protection:

  • Constant surveillance becoming the norm: shoppers are closely tracked and monitored while moving around the store with the use of facial recognition solutions and sensors. This implies a massive collection of personal data and might generate a feeling of being on constant surveillance.  This can be linked to surveillance becoming the norm. In fact, people might get used to this technology and easily accept it for other purposes as well.
  • Repurposing of the shopper’s profile: the constant profiling of shoppers could be subsequently abused for other purposes, such as targeted advertising and direct marketing. 
  • Lack of transparency: even if major technology providers declare that data collected in stores will be associated with the customer’s account for 30 days, it is unclear how this data will be used during this period of time and after that.
  • Lack of safeguards for vulnerable individuals: processing personal data of vulnerable individuals without any additional safeguards might exacerbate other data protection issues. For example, children might be exposed to facial recognition technologies when visiting the stores with their family.
Further readings:

Tech Champion: Maria Enescu