Walmart's free phones for employees got the attention of some privacy experts. It could even go to the extent of surveillance given the data that the device could extract from its users.

Walmart’s Free Phones to Employees Could Be Used to Surveillance Workers, Experts Say — How to Use it Safely?
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HALLANDALE BEACH, FLORIDA - MAY 18: People wearing protective masks walk from a Walmart store on May 18, 2021 in Hallandale Beach, Florida. Walmart announced that customers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will not need to wear a mask in its stores, unless one is required by state or local laws.

However, there are steps to mitigate the chances of Walmart invading the privacy of its workers. Another expert also suggests that a giveaway phone is better than using a primary device at work. 

Walmart Free Phones to Employees 

On June 6, Walmart announced that it is providing 740,000 employees with a Samsung Galaxy XCover Pro free of charge. The giveaway to its associates retails around $499.99. 

According to Fox Business, the free phones could be used by the employees as their personal devices as well. 

Me@Walmart 

The latest move of the retail giant coincides with the launch of Me@Walmart, an app that would help employees with their tasks at hand. 

"The idea of this app started as a way to manage associates' schedules and has grown into our single in-store app for U.S. associates," Kellie Romack, Vice President of Product and Associate Experience of Walmart, wrote in a blog post. 

Romack expects the new app to increase the productivity and efficiency of its employees. 

Free Phones and Surveillance 

Although Walmart reiterated that it does not have any access to the personal data of its employees through the smartphone giveaway, some experts beg to differ. 

Darrell West, a senior fellow of Center of Technology Innovation, told The New York Post that "the company can engage in surveillance to what [employees] do on that phone." 

West added that the company could extract personal data such as "financial and social interaction." He further warned employees that: "Basically everything you do on that phone can be subject to surveillance."

According to the Apple App Store, Me@Walmart certainly does access the financial information of its users. In addition, it also collects location and health and fitness information. 

Separately, Walmart explained that the health and fitness info is for the COVID-19 assessment that it implements. Moreover, the financial information is for the paycheck function of the app. And lastly, the location data is used to confirm that employees are not faking their time in. 

Read Also: Amazon Prime Pantry Delivery Used During Coronavirus Lockdown Discontinued

How To Avoid Being Tracked? 

According to Walmart, users may opt out of the said features above. After all, all of it was optional. 

So, if employees are paranoid that their information is being used for surveilling, they could decide to not use those features instead. 

Andres Arrieta, Director of Consumer Privacy Engineering at Electronic Frontier Foundation, has advice for the employees, saying that if the employees could afford a different phone for their personal life, it's better if they could have that.

He also noted that a separate phone is the better option when employers require their employees to use an app. Additionally, it is more dangerous to install a company-owned app in the primary phones as it could extract more personal info.

Elsewhere, watch out for the PS5 restock in Walmart this weekAlso, the retail giant has an upcoming massive sale to rival Amazon's Prime Day 

Related Article: Walmart Xbox Series X Restock Fail? Buyers Complain About Bots and Only 2-3 Seconds Leeway

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Written by Teejay Boris 

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