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12 Jul 2021

Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune

USA: Hudson, McDonald's and White Castle among companies moving towards automated workforce, raising privacy concerns & job uncertainty

“What Does Workforce Automation Mean for Jobs, Privacy?”, 12 July 2021.

The Hudson Nonstop store uses technology Amazon developed for its cashierless Amazon Go stores to automatically bill shoppers when they walk out.


In some ways, the COVID-19 pandemic made automation even more appealing. A robot workforce doesn’t need to social distance or count against capacity limits, and technology that makes workers more efficient could help employers struggling to hire workers quickly.


Customers swipe a credit card to enter through a gate. Cameras covering the ceiling work with sensors on store shelves to add items to virtual shopping carts as customers pick them up.


..[A] 2019 McKinsey report estimated about half of activities in the retail industry can be automated with current technology, but only 5% of jobs can be fully automated.


Sometimes that means workers oversee machines, like the grocery store employees who monitor and troubleshoot self-checkout machines. In other cases, retailers have them focus on tasks requiring social interaction or other new, in-demand roles, like picking out items for online orders.


Some privacy-conscious consumers may be wary of technology that appears to demand too much personal information in exchange for convenience...

The Electronic Frontier Foundation doesn’t oppose businesses’ use of biometrics as long as they first get the customer’s consent and provide a biometric-free option that is just as convenient at no added cost, said Adam Schwartz, senior staff attorney at the San Francisco-based digital rights nonprofit.