Walmart partnered with Lockheed Martin, FBI for employee surveillance

Walmart partnered with Lockheed Martin and FBI to monitor employee protests between 2012 and 2013
Walmart partnered with Lockheed Martin and FBI to monitor employee protests between 2012 and 2013

Between 2012 and 2013, Walmart reportedly hired Lockheed Martin and later began working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to monitor its employees suspected of being involved in labor protests.

Walmart contracted Lockheed Martin in the fall of 2012 to canvass and analyze social media sites so that they can keep tabs on employees when it caught wind of news that an advocacy group might stage a protest on Black Friday, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

More than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs, as well as testimony from its head of labor relations at the time detail the retail giant's efforts to conduct surveillance on its employees and members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), according to the report. The documents were obtained prior to a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing into OUR Walmart's allegations of retaliation against employees who joined protests, the report said.

While Lockheed Martin is one of the biggest defense contractors in the world it also operates a tool called LM Wisdom, which the company advertises as having the power to analyze content that could “incite organized movements, riots and sway political outcomes.” While there is no evidence that the tool was used, Bloomberg reported a single reference to it in the documents obtained in the form of a question asking a Walmart corporate employee if she had heard of it.

Walmart reportedly also used assistance from the contractor in April 2013 to monitor the movements of a “Ride for Respect” bus caravan organized by the protesters to arrive in Bentonville, Ark., the location of Walmart's corporate office, during a week long annual shareholder meeting.

Upon learning that members of the Occupy movement might join the protest, Walmart contacted the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces although the documents don't contain any details about the collaboration, according to the report.

SCMagazine attempted to contact Lockheed Martin and Walmart for comment however a Lockheed Martin spokesperson declined and Walmart has yet to respond.

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