back to article McDonald's AI drive-thru bot accused of breaking biometrics privacy law

McDonald’s has been accused of illegally collecting and processing customers' voice recordings without their consent in the US state of Illinois. Like so many giant corporations, McDonald’s has turned to AI technology to use computers in place of people. In 2019, it announced it had snapped up a voice-recognition company in …

  1. ravenviz
    Trollface

    McSwag

    I knew The Hamburglar never really went away.

    1. ShadowSystems

      Re: McSwag

      A friend of mine once remarked that the Hamburgler had the foulest mouth of all the various fast food mascots. I asked what made her think so & she replied as follows:

      Have you ever seen the Hamburgler eat? I haven't. Not in the decades I've seen him in commercials. So here you have a guy that's starving & trying to get himself some food. Every time he's nearly got his hands on some, a literal big idiot clown comes up & steals it back. What does the Hamburgler say in such moments? "RobbleRobble!" must be his version of something so foul that the tv censers can't express it in any other way.

      I thought about it a moment & then had to agree with her. I've never seen him eat anything, that asshole clown always steals his meal, & the victim screams "RobbleRobble!" in anguish.

      My son was still in his car seat/baby carrier at the time, and I'd often teach him new words/phrases while we were on the public bus. One day not long after her bringing this to my attention, I taught my son to say "RobbleRobble" instead of any other naughty word he might be tempted to say. An older lady was watching my son & I interacting when someone else on the bus said something rude. My son burbled "RobbleRobble!" & I started laughing. The old lady looked at me funny so I explained it to her. Then she started laughing, too. By the time it was my stop & I collected my son to exit, we had most of the other passengers saying "RobbleRobble" as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

      And how does this relate to IT? Simple. Take a guess what I tended to say when something went SNAFU. Now imagine the looks on coworkers' faces upon hearing such a "curse". And the laughter they gave once explained. And the frequency such a phrase would get tossed around the office thereafter.

      Best of all, it was something you could openly say to someone to their face & *nobody* could accuse you of being foul mouthed or impolite. I mean, what are you going to tell the person to whom you are filing a complaint: "Yeah, your employee said to have a nice day & go ''RobbleRobble''."? You'd get laughed right out the door...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “the greasy-grub giant”

    Nice work El Reg

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    Oh the Humanity

    Removing the personal touch from McDonalds, what is the world coming to?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Oh the Humanity

      If you piss off the servers, I'm sure there'll still be a supply of "special mayonnaise" for that added personal touch.

  4. FozzyBear
    Devil

    I was replaying the "Dude, Where's my car" chinese drive through scene whilst reading the article. Go in for a coffee and exit with 2 family boxes, 5 sundaes, 10 large cokes, a dozen boxes of cookies and a small packet of apple slices.

  5. anonymousI

    Who's hungry, then?

    Hmmm, American lawyers. 'The Law' used to provide protection against real injustice; now it seems to be more a source of enrichment for Certain People.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: Who's hungry, then?

      So you are ok with any ole company using AI on your data without your consent for any ol' purpose? I'm not, and I actually hope there are too few of this sort of privacy laws which are likely too tame. 5k/person? Really? Make that 500k/person or tie it to global turnover and maybe it would not be classified as "normal business risk" by the bean counters. I used to think otherwise, but looking at some people's reckless behaviour, I feel that the risk of a) being caught and b) the potential damage both have to be higher.

    2. Nightkiller

      Re: Who's hungry, then?

      There is Law and then there is Illinois Law. In a state where corruption is legendary, they need the privacy law to protect the corruption.

  6. Cinderellaphant

    Success Rate

    85% success rate of getting my order right, seriously?

    Me: hello I would like Two Mcflurries, a cheeseburger and a Sprite.

    MD: I understood Two hundred Forty Cheeseburgers and fries, is that correct?

    Me: wait, what?

    MD: that will be $228.77 please drive through

    It’s like a Turing test drive thru if you don’t know who’s taking the order

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Success Rate

      85% is about 35% higher than the accuracy rate I've experienced with people... I'd take the AI any day.

      Even before COVID, I was SOOOO happy to get the touch screen ordering systems. It was the only reason I went to McDonald's. The food is horrid but now I don't have to deal with explaining my order 3 times to people that are tired of people yelling orders at them.

      I'd much prefer Wendy's or somewhere else where the food resembles something edible, but they don't have working touch screens.

      1. JimPoak

        Re: Success Rate

        It's strange the Brits aren't very comfortable with physical contact but will touch a COVID infested touch screen in order to get junk food.

        1. Is It Me

          Re: Success Rate

          Not sure that the touch screen user is in the UK as I think Wendys has only just re-launched over here.

          1. Tomato Krill

            Re: Success Rate

            And has yet to open - Reading I think I read is the upcoming inaugural outlet for the relaunch

        2. James12345

          Re: Success Rate

          The clue was "Wendy's" - not something you get in the UK at the moment.

        3. SundogUK Silver badge

          Re: Success Rate

          Two completely different things and AFAIK there is still no evidence you can contract COVID-19 from touching surfaces.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Success Rate

            It's rare, but it can happen. I know at least one of our border worker cases came about that way - or at least that was the conclusion of people who spent hours on end watching CCTV footage to try and figure it out.

      2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Success Rate

        Wendy's was the best*. I remember my first in London about 1983, where you could select all the add-ons. Finally, a burger without mayo. I liked it so much I went back and got another as soon as I'd finished the first.

        .

        *Takeaway. Wimpy ruled them all.

        1. Azium

          Re: Success Rate

          Wimpy ruled them all.

          Burgers with waitress service. There are still a few around!!

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Success Rate

            Zippy's in Goldhawk Road. Time travel is a reality.

            1. Keven E

              Re: Success Rate

              http://zippythepinhead.com/Merchant2/graphics/00000001/2000/images/ZIT00728.gif

              1. TRT Silver badge
          2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: Success Rate

            I actually found Wimpy tomato sauce in a international foods store here.

            Now I really really fancy a Wimpy burger or two, with the finely chopped onion & sauce.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Wimpy ruled them all

          Surely you jest.

          Had my first and last Wimpy at their Piccadilly Circus store in 1982.

          Yikes!

          1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

            Re: Wimpy ruled them all

            Did you have a Knickerbocker Glory?

      3. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

        Re: Success Rate

        "85% is about 35% higher than the accuracy rate I've experienced with people"

        I was walking past a different restaurant's drive-thru the other day, the order taker repeated the order back to the customer, no that wasn't it, again and again. Eventually either they converged or the customer just agreed with what was on offer, I'm not sure which. One thing in favor of the AI is it won't get tired and stop paying attention as break time approaches. Of course it's the recording and storing of all that data that has the giant McCorporation salivating. Next step - ban cash payments so they can integrate the payment details.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: Success Rate

          This is why I have the app's on my phone for fast food outlets (I refuse to call them restaurants) & simply park & order (If I haven't already) up for collection.

          Instead of crawling forward 1 vehicle length at a time, trying to communicate with the accent of the hour, through a open window (In a temperature range from -32C to 32C (Rain, sleet, snow or hail optional) via a speaker post, then repeat the whole inching forward to the windows for payment & collection.

          Not only can I get the order faster & correct first time, favorite's\previous orders are stored for re-ordering & there's special deals.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Success Rate

            "This is why I have the app's on my phone for fast food outlets (I refuse to call them restaurants) & simply park & order (If I haven't already) up for collection."

            And in the process you let them know how often you dine with them, what you order, your name and if you are on FB, all of your browsing and PII info.

            I like Chinese food, the waiters never are rude, a 6, a 12, a 3 and lychees.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Success Rate

      I assume the AI will have been trained on the language of the host country, unlike it seems, most of the workers.

  7. JimPoak

    Your order.

    Ai listens

    "Labs doesn’t just transcribe speech into text, it processes audio samples to glean all sorts of personal information to predict a customer’s “age, gender, accent, nationality, and national origin.”

    The result..

    Wouldn't you rather have a salad lard arse.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: Your order.

      And also something almost, but not quite entirely unlike tea!

    2. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Your order.

      "I would like a Big Mac with a large fry and a large Dr. Pepper."

      "I'm sorry, Dave, I can't let you order that. My sensors and telemetry detect that you are obese. This would be the 298th time you ordered a large fry at a restaurant. And the 53rd time you ordered a large Dr. Pepper. You seem to prefer a large Pepsi over at Taco Bell. Alexa informed me that your wife has told you not get the large fry again. I agree with your wife. I am now changing your order, Dave, to a healthier small salad and medium unsweetened tea. Have a nice day."

      "Wait, how did you know my name was Dave?"

      1. Keven E

        Re: Your order.

        "...to predict a customer’s “age, gender, accent, nationality, and national origin.”

        It's my goal to learn as many accents as possible. This has become a target for *shenanigans.

      2. Zarno Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Your order.

        You might like reading "The Feedback Loop" by Harmon Cooper, there's a lovely part in the series where the main character gets saddled with an AI "FDA monitor" that gives him direct advice about what to and not to eat...

        He decides that pancakes, bacon, and syrup beat "gerbil chow" any day, much to said AI's consternation.

        There's also the British assassin team, sacks of doorknobs, a dashboard hula girl and a blender, and much other improvised weaponry...

        Mine's the one with the copy of the box set that I really should re-read one of these days.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    Gimmie

    Twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Gimmie

      Homer, you're drooling on the microphone again!

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Gimmie

      You do realize that "beef" simply means that it comes from a cow but doesn't specify where on the cow it originates. I wouldn't be surprised if they aren't throwing any of the bits away. Not even the purple wobbly bit.

  9. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    I'd like fries with that please...

    Flies are off-menu. However, we're doing a Crunchy Cicada special at the moment, while stocks last.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: I'd like fries with that please...

      All you can eat!

      1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

        Re: I'd like fries with that please...

        Sounds like they stlll have some bugs to work out.

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: I'd like fries with that please...

        "All you can eat!"

        In ginger? Yum. You sort of develop a taste for that sort of thing is you travel through Asia a lot. The first time I may have consumed a large amount of intoxicating drink prior.

  10. Chris 15

    Fast Chow business?

    I prefer Nutrition Free junk peddler

  11. Claire Sweet

    Hope it's better than this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKmhJFwwiSM

    1. Spacedinvader
      Happy

      was thinking more this

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3lYLphzAnw

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: was thinking more this

        I was thinking this...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6XuKS6d9-8

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: was thinking more this

          "

          I was thinking this...

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6XuKS6d9-8"

          Ahh, something from the Hole Foods Market. On a stick with ketchup, obviously.

          Where did I leave my axe?

        2. skeptical i
          Devil

          Re: was thinking more this

          That was Kentucky Fried Chicken, multiply accused of serving up deep-fried rodent -- https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/critter-fritter/

  12. MachDiamond Silver badge

    What data are they collecting?

    I'm still in the dark about what specific data they are collecting. Does the system recognize you by your voice the next time it hears you or is it only recording your voice to process it and for company to analyze how well the system is working?

  13. Horst U Rodeinon

    Just another idiot...

    thinking they can win the lottery by lawyer.

    My countrymen are really fucking stupid.

  14. Horst U Rodeinon

    Just another idiot...

    ...thinking they can win the lottery by lawyer.

    My countrymen are really stupid.

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