Walmart has plenty of haters. But for many consumers, Walmart's prices just can't be beat. You can't afford to be choosy when you're on a tight budget.

If price is not so much of a concern for you, what if you discovered that Walmart wants your personal data? And not just data about your shopping behavior, which we already give hand over fist to Amazon in the name of fast shipping.

Walmart is interested in what's going on in your body while you shop.

The company wants to collect this data is a particularly creepy way: through the handles of its shopping carts. Walmart recently submitted a patent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office called "System and Method for a Biometric Feedback Cart Handle," CBInsights reports.

These innovative shopping cart handles would collect your biometric data, meaning your stress level, your body temperature, and heart rate -- all while you're strolling through the aisles of your local store, filling your cart with Walmart's everyday low-priced items.

Putting a positive spin on data collection

Walmart is wisely putting a positive spin on why it wants to collect shoppers' biometric data.

Say someone was unwell while shopping in one of the Walmart stores. Their pulse becomes erratic or their temperature drastically changes. The shopping cart handle would transmit this info in real time to a server, which would then notify a Walmart associate to go check on the person.

That sounds awfully altruistic for Walmart. It's probably not the only reason America's largest retailer wants to collect information about what's happening inside the minds and bodies of consumers while they shop.

How Walmart could spin this to its benefit

Internet retailers already excel at targeting us for products they know we want to buy because of our online shopping behavior. It's not so easy to gather data about your preferences while you shop in brick-and-mortar stores.

But what if Walmart could see if your heart rate increases when you pass a new display? What if the company could see it drop when you walk by another? This technology would essentially monitor how customers are feeling while they shop. Walmart could then use that data to optimize the design of its stores for ultimate feel-good vibes. Or to entice people to stay in its stores for a few minutes longer, which is the tried-and-true way to get people to spend more.

Though the creepy shopping cart handle doesn't exist yet, it's not hard to imagine it quickly coming to fruition if the patent is approved. Similar technology already exists on treadmills, which have sensors in handles that can gather your heart rate.

The technology itself isn't inherently bad. Intent matters. Even when the purpose of certain technologies is good, bad actors can still use them for not-so-good purposes. Is Walmart a good actor or bad actor? Up to you to decide.

Be Aware of Who's Tracking Your Data
Published on: Oct 9, 2018