Amazon wants to read your palm – and the technology might foretell the future. Amazon, which owns Whole Foods, is adding its Amazon One palm-scanning devices to check out kiosks in 65 California metro-area locations. A handful of locations in New York and LA have experimented with the technology for months, and larger scale rollouts are expected across the next few weeks.
But what is Amazon One, really?
It is a free and contactless service that allows shoppers to use their palms to pay and identify themselves, says Amazon. First-time users swipe their credit card, enter their phone number and hover their hand over the scanning device, which allows Amazon to store an encrypted “unique palm signature” or palm print.
During future shopping trips, shoppers can simply present their palm to the scanner, rather than taking the time to feed a credit card into a machine or to tap a card on a reader.
On the whole, in-store palm-scanning devices are not new. However, their application in urban and suburban grocery stores represents a business and technological shift. Amazon’s goal is to accelerate the movement of customers through stores by streamlining the payment process.
Select Amazon Go locations already have these devices in-place. According to one Amazon Go security guard, consumers frequently use Amazon Go when they are in a rush or do not have their payment cards with them.
Amazon says that images taken on the kiosk are not stored locally. Rather, they are encrypted and sent to a dedicated cloud server, where an identifiable palm signature is generated.
Previously, Amazon has found success in convincing customers to provide them with data in exchange for lifestyle conveniences. The company’s online shopping, grocery shopping, Alexa, Ring smart cameras, doorbells, and new room-mapping robot vacuum cleaners are all avenues through which the company collects data. These areas will remain as concerns for privacy advocates.
In nearly a dozen instances, Amazon has given Ring camera footage to police without the owner’s consent, according to Politico. In response to withering criticism, Ring representatives stated “It is simply untrue that Ring gives anyone unfettered access to customer data or video,” stressing that the company only provides information to police only when it believes that danger of death, physical injury, kidnapping or attempted murder are imminent.
Amazon One applications
Amazon One is intended to simplify everyday purchasing interactions. Despite the fact that the tech is largely making appearances in supermarkets, it has other potential applications too.
Earlier this year, the Red Rocks concert venue in Colorado actually replaced Amazon One after public pushback and scrutiny earlier this year. Concerts and events represent just one means of expanding the service, particularly if the new grocery store experiments attract a broad variety of new palm-scanning participants.
Futuristic payment tech pushback
The digital rights non-profit known as Fight For The Future warned that Amazon One’s new palm-scanning tech could lead to law enforcement or government agencies leveraging the data for purposes of cross-checking information in immigration or police databases. In turn, this could lead to police harassment “violent arrests and Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids…”.
Fight for the Future also added that personal, irreplaceable and unchangeable bodily data could potentially fall into the hands of cyber threat actors, who could retain permanent access to the data.
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