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McDonald’s installs hidden artificial intelligence system to prey on customers

The move has privacy advocates wondering “what’s next”?

Our digital world is growing into a great force to be reckoned with, and greed is unfortunately one of the more prevailing reasons why.

The push for ever smarter technology in our everyday lives comes at a price, but, so far, it seems to be a price that we are willing to pay.  We gladly give our smartphones access to not only our wallets, but our fingerprints and consumer data as well.  Social media companies have long sold this data to advertisers in order for them to more egregiously target us when and where we are the most likely to give them money.

Frighteningly, this technology is in play nearly at all times – regardless of whether we consent to it or not – and has popped up in some strange places.

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Like the menu board at your local McDonald’s, for instance.

…McDonald’s made its first big move into tech and its largest acquisition since it bought Boston Market in 2000. The company spent $300 million to acquire Dynamic Yield, a New York-based startup that uses artificial intelligence to “personalize customer experiences” — compiling data about how individuals make their sandwich and soda purchase choices and using that data to predict how other individuals will make them.

Then, digital menu displays will make super-specific adjustments, store-by-store. So hypothetically, if the McDonald’s next to a high school gets a regular post-basketball-game rush of teens, its menus could learn this over time and start highlighting the Dollar Menu and combo deals — big calories for your buck, and your youthful metabolism!

The “decision technology” will be used first in the outdoor menu boards at McDonald’s drive-thrus, where it will analyze purchase patterns based on the weather, traffic, time of day, and “trending menu items” and instantly rearrange the display to feature a more desirable combination of items. (McDonald’s used some more rudimentary tech back in 2015 to run an experiment with weather-based menus, highlighting McFlurries when it was hot, lattes when it was cold, etc. and saw a small spike in sales.)

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The tech will eventually be honed into a suitable setup for us on self-service kiosks as well.

The willingness of McDonald’s to toy with such technology is concerning, but certainly not unexpected.


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