Amazon continues to work on the supermarket without staff. In 65 Californian branches of the Whole Foods supermarket chain, palm scanners are now to be used to identify shoppers beyond doubt. This should make it possible to settle accounts without staff. Data protection does not seem to play a role for Amazon.
Palm scanner to replace app
So far, it is still necessary in Amazon’s test supermarkets to log in via app before shopping. Otherwise, it would not be possible to clearly assign a purchase to a person. With the self-developed palm scanner, personless shopping should now become easier: During the payment process, all that is required is to hold the hand over the scanner. A smartphone will subsequently no longer be necessary for the purchase – nor will a payment card or cash. After identification, Amazon will debit the cost of the purchase to the account or credit card on file.
An initial test phase of the palm scanner in some stores in the northern United States has already been completed. Implementation in Whole Foods supermarkets – the chain is part of the Amazon Group – will now work to spread the technology. Implementation in as many as 65 stores could mark the technology’s breakthrough and prompt competitors to follow suit.
Left out of the equation, however, is data protection. Anyone who wants to use the technology must perform a full palm scan and have the biometric data generated permanently stored by Amazon. This data must be linked to other personal data – otherwise the imprint is worthless and automatic recognition, including money debiting, is impossible. However, this means that one of the world’s largest corporations permanently has access to the most sensitive personal data. This is already problematic in that it is almost impossible to control how Amazon handles this data. In the past, it has repeatedly been shown that Amazon does not attach great importance to privacy protection. For example, cameras of the company’s subsidiary Ring passed on recordings to the police without consent. In addition, there are hardly assessable problems that can occur in the event of data leaks: If criminals get hold of the biometric and related personal data, they could use it in other areas.
A more general data protection criticism that has flared up again in connection with palm scanners is that of the transparent customer: By identifying all shoppers, which is currently done via app and/or card payment, Amazon gains the ability to create individual preference profiles of all customers – and derive corresponding individualized advertising measures designed to influence behavior.
Criticism from employees
In addition to privacy concerns, other criticism of the implementation of the palm scan also arose. For example, Mashable reports on fears among employees at the affected stores. They could lose their jobs as part of the streamlining measures. Amazon tried to appease and said that employees would continue to be an essential part of the shopping experience in the future. However, the question then arises as to what economic advantage palm scans will bring Amazon.