Amazon has drawn backlash on social media for being “nefarious” after offering people $10 to enroll in its controversial palm print recognition system. The tech uses biometric scanners to identify shoppers and verify payments.
The promotion, which was spotted by Tech Crunch and other industry outlets, offers customers $10 in promotional credit if they register their palm prints at the company’s check-out free stores and link it to their Amazon accounts.
The system, called ‘Amazon One’, was launched last September. It was billed as a quick, easy and “contactless” alternative to making physical cash and card payments at stores – as well as a potential identity verification service for event venues and businesses in the future.
After a person positions their hand over the scanner, it records and stores their unique “palm signature” down to its most “minute characteristics”. This includes “surface-area details like lines and ridges” and “subcutaneous features” like vein patterns.
The Amazon One device then uses a “process of proprietary imaging and computer vision algorithms” to “capture and encrypt your palm image” in just “seconds”.
This embedded data is then used to create a unique ‘Amazon One ID’, which automatically links to Amazon-registered email addresses, mobile phone numbers and bank cards.
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The retail giant claims customers’ palm data is “stored separately” from other personal information and is “only used to generate and update” their palm signatures and identity verification. However, it admits that a “subset of anonymous data” is used to improve the system.
As well, the palm data is stored indefinitely unless users opt to delete their data and cancel their Amazon One ID once there are no outstanding transactions remaining. The data is also stored for up to two years before being deleted – if a customer does not interact with a palm scanner in that period.
The system is currently available in 50 locations across the US, including Whole Foods stores and a number of Amazon retail shops. In an April blog post, the company claimed that “thousands” of customers had enrolled in the service and touted its “contactless” design during the Covid pandemic.
Despite the apparently positive feedback for the system, the company has not spoken about the reasons behind its decision to offer $10 to entice customers to part with their palm prints. Amazon is yet to release a statement about the promotion and a number of tech outlets have said the company’s spokespeople provided no comment on it.
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In addition, the majority of social media users have declined to take up the company’s offer to part with their “priceless” data, with one person telling Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to “talk to the hand”.
Several people said they would consider the offer if it added a “whole bunch of zeroes” to that amount.
Notice of counter-offer to @Amazon:I am against this.Please note, however, that I’m willing to compromise and will sell you my palm print for $10 million, after taxes.Full disclosure: I will be having my palm print surgically updated after this transaction is final.DM me.
— Santa’s Tavern (@SantasTavern) August 4, 2021
“I’d do it for $10 annually, like a subscription they have to renew. I’d call it PrimePrint. Copyrighted already,” one person tweeted.
Other people joked about what they would rather do with their palm prints instead – with answers ranging from auctioning it as an NFT (non-fungible token) to using it to “somehow raise a cursed, 3,000-year-old mummy from the dead”.
Others pointed to Amazon’s track record in data privacy and biometric technology, criticizing its decision to sell data from its controversial facial recognition tech ‘Rekognition’ to law enforcement in particular.
Although the company banned the police from using its technology last year, a number of lawsuits have alleged that it broke laws against sharing personal biometric data without permission.
A number of people said Amazon would “recoup that $10” by selling palm signatures to the police or use it for other “nefarious reasons”. One user suggested a scenario where their whole body would eventually be “digitized” by the company on the grounds that the palm data alone was not “secure enough”.
Nice try Amazon but I know this will probably be used for nefarious reasons so no thank you
— ?G̫i̫l̫b̫e̫r̫t̫ P̫a̫p̫i̫ C̫h̫u̫l̫o̫ R̫o̫l̫a̫n̫d̫ (@YaNanous) August 3, 2021
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