In September 2020, Amazon introduced a new biometric technology called Amazon One. It aimed to provide a “contactless way for people to use their palm to make everyday activities like paying at a store.” This sort of technology certainly has its perks in the midst of a pandemic and can also help prevent the general spread of illness. At launch, Amazon One was installed at two Amazon Go stores in Seattle, but as promised, the company is now expanding the system out to several more locations. Continue reading to learn more.
Amazon One gets green-lit for expansion
The expansion of Amazon One makes the device available for use in a total of eight locations instead of just two. Types of locations slated to receive the system include not only include Amazon Go, but also the company’s grocery, books, and four-star stores. All eight spots are located in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle.
If you’re curious how One works, the system uses computer vision technology to create a digital image of your palm. This picture is “sent to a highly secure area” that the company “custom-built in the cloud.” From there it’s linked with a payment method and phone number stored at Amazon. The palm was chosen by Amazon since it’s considered “more private than some biometric alternatives” and is entirely contactless.
Remember when smartphones began using biometrics? It was a fast and convenient way to add security to your device. Apple knew that collecting biometric data would be controversial, so when it unveiled Touch ID, it vowed to never store this data in the cloud, but to instead keep all biometric data local and within the Secure Enclave of each device. This is why when users buy a new device, they must always set up Touch ID or Face ID from scratch.
While I am a huge fan of offloading human effort onto computers, One does feel like a bit of an overreach to me. Keeping biometrics in the cloud is something that I have not yet come to terms with, even if the data is encrypted. If Amazon made it clear that palm images were encrypted end-to-end, perhaps I would feel differently, but up to now, the details provided still require quite a bit of trust from its customers. At least Amazon makes it easy to delete biometric data at any time by signing into the Amazon One portal.
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