Amazon to bring weird-sounding ‘Palm Scanner payment technology’ to SF Whole Foods stores

A bizarre form of biometric payment is coming to several SF Whole Foods stores, letting you pay just by waving your palm. But is it worth handing over your biological data to Amazon just to avoid the extremely menial task of withdrawing a credit card?

Retail giant Amazon has already crossed so many privacy rubicons that it’s not even a surprise anymore when they introduce nightmarish new technologies. These Ring Video Doorbells are already being used for real-time police surveillance. Their Alexa voice assistants are conscientiously recording every conversation in people’s homes. And it is well known that Amazon hand over this personal data to law enforcementor whoever is the highest bidder (or in the case of pirates, people who you don’t even have to bid on your data to get it).

Amazon’s next frontier is your intimate health data. In what’s being sold as a kind of convenience gain, though it’s hard to see how that’s so much more convenient, TechCrunch reports that Amazon-owned Whole Foods is bringing palm scanning technology at Bay Area Whole Foods storesconnecting your bank account to your biometric data and allowing you to pay with a simple wave of your hand.

“Amazon’s ‘One’ palm-scan payment technology will be launched at more than 65 Whole Foods stores in California,” according to TechCrunch. “This is the largest deployment to date, with stores in Malibu, Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Orange County, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz receiving technology that aims to modernizing retail.”

I’m not sure “retail” is what they’re really trying to modernize here, but we’ll continue.

Image: Amazon

According to Amazon’s own description“Amazon One is a fast, convenient and contactless way for users to use their palm to perform everyday activities such as paying in a store, presenting a loyalty card, entering a place like a stadium or going to the The service is designed to be highly secure and uses custom algorithms and hardware to create a person’s unique palm signature.

SFGate tested exactly which Bay Area Whole Foods stores were doing this. “After calling, SFGATE has confirmed that at least seven of 13 Whole Foods locations in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley are set to roll out Amazon One, likely around the end of August,” the site reports. “Four respondents from Whole Foods said they had not heard about Amazon One or been told they would not be part of the expansion program at this time. Two locations declined to comment.

SFGate also cleverly describes this contactless payment system as a “decidedly tiny customer service improvement”. I think they are right about that. But Amazon’s plans for your biometrics could be far more than miniscule.

Of course, if you disagree with this crap, you have the option of not buying from Whole Foods. But normalizing this is a concern. And are we Of course do we have the option of opting out of Amazon’s biometric profile program? If Amazon wants this biometric data, are there any safeguards for those of us who prefer not to give it to Amazon? It wouldn’t shock me to learn that I already have this alrorithmic “single palm signature” on file at Amazon, even though I never subscribed to it.

There’s an old joke where people refer to Whole Foods as “Whole Paycheck.” But with Amazon’s push into biometrics, it may be a lot more than your salary they’re after.

Related: Amazon buys SF-based One Medical for $3.9 billion [SFist]

Image: 20th Century Fox

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