Target: Mike Duke, Walmart Chief Executive Officer
Goal: Fully disclose consumer data collection policies
Monitoring customers’ buying habits in order to predict trends and tailor marketing is nothing new. In this social media and smart phone-fueled age, companies are able to collect this data on a scale never before seen. Retail giant Walmart has taken the practice to a new level via its apps and website, collecting information on nearly two-thirds of American adults, tracking customers’ real-time locations via mobile devices, and sharing data with more than 50 third- party companies.
The report Consumers, Big Data and Online Tracking in the Retail Industry: A Case Study of Walmart notes that people of color and people in poverty are disproportionately the target of this data mining. Studies have shown wealthier customers are more likely to protect their data by avoiding marketing tactics, discount programs, and other ploys used to collect it. And little information is available to show exactly how Walmart uses consumer data, or how it may be misused.
Customers who try to uninstall Walmart’s apps have found that they can’t entirely erase the app’s data from their phones, and there is no process in place for people to demand the company delete the data once collected. Consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re signing up for. Demand that Walmart be completely transparent in telling customers what data will be collected, how it will be used, and who it will be shared with.
Dear Mike Duke, Walmart Chief Executive Officer,
The Center for Media Justice, partnering with Sum of Us and ColorOfChange, has recently shed light on Walmart’s consumer data collection policies. And consumers have reason to be concerned. Findings released include that your company goes so far as to collect real-time location data on consumers, and shares their data with dozens of third parties.
What’s more, people of color and people in poverty are disproportionately the targets of these data collection strategies. As noted by Professor Joseph Jerome in the report Consumers, Big Data and Online Tracking in the Retail Industry: A Case Study of Walmart, “Most of the biggest concerns we have about big data—discrimination, profiling, tracking, exclusion—threaten the self-determination and personal autonomy of the poor more than any other class.”
Walmart stands at a crossroads where consumer confidence is teetering. The lack of transparency surrounding your company’s data collection practices does little to inspire trust. Step up, and fully disclose to your customers what data will be collected, how it will be used, and who it will be shared with.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Walmart Corporate via Wikimedia Commons