Privacy SOS

Walmart worked with Lockheed Martin, FBI to spy on workers fighting for fair wages—but the protests continue

Are you taking part in Black Friday protests today? It’s likely that private corporations and government agencies are working hand in hand to monitor your dissent.

Bloomberg reports on new documents showing that Walmart hired military contractor Lockheed Martin and worked with the FBI to spy on employees who were fighting for a fair wage back in 2012.

The Analytical Research Center, or ARC, is part of Walmart’s global security division. Ken Senser, a former FBI officer, oversees the entire group. The executive responsible for ARC was Steve Dozier, according to Casey’s testimony. He was director of the Arkansas State Police before he joined Walmart in 2007. “When we received word of potential strikes and disruptive activity on Black Friday 2012, that’s when we started to ask the ARC to work with us,” Casey said during her testimony. “ARC had contracted with Lockheed leading up to Black Friday to help source open social media sites.”

Last year in Chicago, the police apparently used high tech phone snooping tools to monitor and track the activities of Black Friday protesters affiliated with Black Lives Matter. Also in 2014, police and FBI officials monitored the activities of Black Lives Matter protesters ahead of planned Mall of America demonstrations. In 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement was monitored by bank security and NYPD officials, who sat side by side at the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, a fusion center that works as a private-public surveillance partnership between the City of New York and financial firms. The list goes on and on.

Despite these oppressive tactics, Walmart workers continue to organize for fair wages, and demonstrators in Chicago are marching in the streets as I write this. Surveillance is a means of obtaining and exerting control over human beings and political processes, but it doesn’t and needn’t stop political mobilizations. In fact, political organizing and protest often have the effect of exposing the surveillance infrastructure to the light of day. 

So you should know that you may be watched if you engage in political organizing or dissent, but don’t let that stop you. If you’re careful, you can avoid some types of surveillance. And if you exercise your rights despite the likelihood of corporate or government spying against you, there’s a good chance your mobilization will have the effect of ultimately exposing the surveillance to the world.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.