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The Tally Ho

Sunday, November 14, 2004

"All of the data are precious to Wal-Mart"*

Be afraid. Be HUGELY afraid. Wal-Mart, in addtion to shortchanging their "associates" and bullying publishers into changing the cover art on books, has been doing, and keeping, lots of homework on their customers. The entire frightening article is here. An excerpt:

With 3,600 stores in the United States and roughly 100 million customers walking through the doors each week,Wal-Mart has access to information about a broad slice of America - from individual Social Security and driver's license numbers to geographic proclivities for Mallomars, or lipsticks, or jugs of antifreeze. The data are gathered item by item at the checkout aisle, then
recorded, mapped and updated by store, by state, by region. By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet has less than half as much data, according to experts.

There is a bright side to this dark, dark story; the prosecution in the class-action lawsuit brought by the female employees of Wal-mart is working to use this database to calculate back pay and comparative hours and wages by store. Like Nixon's tapes, these data might come back to bite Wal-Mart in the ass. I can only hope.

*No, it's not a typo. And God bless the NYTimes; no matter how weak their writing has become in other areas, they can still use the word "data" correctly in a sentence.


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