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Amazon, Starbucks Face Lawsuit Over Biometric Use In Stores

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Seattle’s companies Amazon and Starbucks are in the legal hot seat as they face a fresh class-action lawsuit alleging the unauthorized collection of biometric data.

Deep Dive: The legal complaint arises from the two companies’ alleged failure to comply with a 2022 New York City law. The legislation in question mandates businesses to conspicuously post signs at their entrances if they collect biometric information such as fingerprints, handprints, or body shapes.

Related: The corporate plot to normalize face and palm payments, harvest biometrics

The Tech in Question: The companies opened two coffee shops that leverage Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology. This dystopian tech involves a mix of sensors, cameras, and machine learning to monitor what customers pick up, subsequently billing them without the need for a traditional checkout.

In Plaintiffs’ Words: Lawyer Peter Romer-Friedman, who represents the trio of New York City residents behind the suit, argues that Amazon should be more transparent with customers about how these systems function. “At a minimum, we think Amazon owes its customers an explanation about how it’s operating these systems before people enter — so that people can decide for themselves whether they want to provide measurements of the size and shape of their body as a condition of getting a sandwich,” he said, as reported by the Seattle Times.

Amazon’s Defense: The e-commerce giant has countered that it doesn’t gather biometric data capable of identifying specific customers. Furthermore, Amazon argues that patrons who utilize its app have tacitly consented through the app’s privacy policy, which permits the employment of sensors and cameras to track in-store activities.

Signage Issue: Following the enforcement of the NYC law in January 2022, both Starbucks and Amazon did install signage signaling the collection of biometric data. However, the lawsuit contends that this attempt was exceedingly inadequate and in breach of the legal requirements. For instance, it mentions that Amazon located one such sign at the back of a store with six entry points.

Discrepancy in Claims: The suit further alleges that Amazon’s signs falsely convey that biometric data is only harvested if customers employ the Amazon One palm scanner, whereas the lawsuit claims the data is compiled regardless.

Escalating Allegations: The lawsuit accuses the companies of taking a bad situation and making it worse. Instead of merely keeping consumers uninformed about biometric data collection, they are accused of giving “false assurances.”

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