Wal-Mart's Watching You
Introducing...Wal-Mart's Area 71.
In Jane, Missouri - right on the Missouri/Arkansas border - is the 125,000 square foot facility. Shielded by razor barbed wire and security cameras all over the place, the building is known to house information. A LOT of information. The data center contains information on all of us, the consumers, and our buying habits. How much information?
460 terabytes of data.
Is that a lot? Imagine this: the entire internet contains less than HALF that much information.
Experts speculate that Wal-Mart stores billions and billions of hours of security camera footage, data on what we buy, when we buy it, how we pay for it, and where we go to buy, and data from RFID tags - or spychips - from the items we buy.
(Here's a Google Maps satellite photo of the huge data center).
So Wal-Mart is watching you. The mega-retail giant is watching you mull over which type of contact solution to buy. You're being watched as you impulsively grab that bag of candy before you head to the cashier. And a lot of the stuff you buy is being tracked via spychips.
Pretty freaky, huh?
The data center is also known to house all of their predictive software and data. In other words, if a Hurricane were to hit the Gulf, Wal-Mart is prepared to know what products consumers will buy when such an event takes place. I don't mean the normal flashlights and gas generators either. In 2004, as Hurricane Francis made it's way towards the Carribean and then eventually headed for Florida, extra shipments of Strawberry Pop Tarts were racing down Highway 95. Why? Because the Wal-Mart predictive analysis found that the sales of Strawberry Pop Tarts increased seven-fold after a hurricane.
What other kinds of data does Wal-Mart store at this secret data center? Personal information for sure. Ever pay for stuff at Wal-Mart with a credit card? A debit card? Personal check? All that data is stored, you can bet your smiley face it is.
Obviously, there are some privacy issues with this collection of data. Signs posted inside tell you that surveillance cameras are in use, but that's to catch shoplifters. The cameras mounted on the roof, capturing footage of the parking lot is for our safety, they say. But on the other hand, the information gathered is information Wal-Mart uses to figure out purchasing patterns. The vast amount data collection is mind boggling.
And Wal-Mart officials are extremely secretive about the data center. When Carrie Thum, a Wal-Mart senior information officer, was asked about the building. She replied, "This is not something that we discuss publicly. We have no comment. And that's off the record."
I wonder if they're keeping Sam Walton's frozen body at the data center with the hopes of ressurecting him someday.