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Amazon One-Biometric Recognition in the Palm of your Hand

In September last year, Amazon released its new identity scanning hardware, allowing consumers to use simply the palm of their hand to pay for things in stores, but they assure this isn’t going to be the main use of this new service. They have said it will be made available to be a new type of fingerprint scanning software, where the user can hover their palm over a device that scans it, and allows for entry into concerts, use as a ticket at airports, and possibly office buildings and the like. This tech has already raised several concerns and questions, the main one being ‘why?’. Something that TechCrunch spotted was that Amazon is offering $10 in credit for people who register their biometric data into the palm print recognition system, it’s not clear where this is available, but to claim the reward you must connect your palm print to your Amazon account.

Amazon One is presented as a way to pay quickly and easily and as a future identity reader, though we already have the likes of contactless card readers, fingerprint and facial ID scanners and using one’s phone as a complete wallet. The service is used by customers positioning their hand over a scanner, which then recognises the palm print based on the unique patterns of ridges and veins. A difference that is likely to worry people between the Amazon One technology and other biometric systems is that they are storing the palm data in the cloud, this type of data collection has been a hot topic for many consumers, and now Amazon is pushing for it to happen, likely to set conspiracy theorists alight with new theories. A huge company such as Amazon collecting and storing this personal data is concerning, especially as in the past has been heavily criticized for pushing new technology onto people such as selling facial recognition algorithms and expanding its network of home surveillance camera that are connected to the police.

Amazon will need to be careful about the storage and collection of the data, and this type of biometric information is protected in certain ways such as some state-level laws in the US and by the EU’s GDPR regulations. There are some regulations in different states such as in Illinois and it’s BIPA (Biometric Information Privacy Act), which means companies will need to get informed consent before collecting the personal data. With a likeness to the technology of Apple’s Face ID, which uses facial recognition data to verify payments and unlock your device, but they keep the data on your device. With Amazon One keeping customers’ data in the cloud, it could be exposed to hackers, and the government could have access.

The technology is straightforward, as palm scanning has been around for years, but Amazon hasn’t let off any major details of their implementation. On their FAQ page they explain that the hardware verifies identity by looking at “the minute characteristics of your palm — both surface-area details like lines and ridges as well as subcutaneous features such as vein patterns.” Although it appears to be a fool proof and secure way of using your data, as it’s harder for hackers to recreate a user’s palm print, it is certainly not that, as hackers have shown in the past that they have been able to create fake hands that were able to trick palm scanners.

Amazon One has so far been rolled out in 50 US locations, includes stores such as Whole Foods and Amazon Go shops. Amazon mentioned in April that there have been thousands of customers enrolling, but they haven’t yet responded to requests for comment about the apparent $10 in credit for signing up promotion.

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