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The Rage Against The Expansion Of Whole Foods' Palm-Scanning Tech

Mashed logo: MainLogoMashed 9/21/2022 Grace Lyra Simmons
Whole Foods Market © Sundry Photography/Shutterstock Whole Foods Market

The cliche narrative of robots taking over and annihilating mankind is often tossed around humorously, but as technology strides towards resembling scenes in "The Terminator," such a dark dystopia may not seem so unrealistic after all. Ok, maybe our demise isn't imminent, but technology has enabled some chilling advances in privacy and data collection. Every click, swipe, and tap is a data point that makes up our interests, purchase habits, and whereabouts, and this personal data is often sold and monetized by companies or data brokers.

Even more concerning is biometric data — "unique physical characteristics" that can be used to identify a person in a system, according to the Department of Homeland Security — which includes fingerprint, facial, and palm recognition. Just like your search history, this biometric data is stored.

The latest and loudest in the lineup of biometric technology is Amazon's innovative contactless payment system, Amazon One, which enables shoppers to literally pay with a wave of their hand. If you live in California, you may have seen the 'pay-by-palm' scanners arrive at your local Whole Foods in the last months as Amazon deployed a mass rollout in 65 markets across California, according to Supermarket News. It has also been implemented in some areas of Seattle, New York, and Austin.

But Amazon One wasn't just built for Amazon's stores. The tech also services stadiums and can replace badge systems for building entry. But Amazon is encountering backlash from some third-party clients, specifically concert venues.

Red Rocks Amphitheater Says 'Talk To The Hand'

biometric palm scanning © Natasa Adzic/Shutterstock biometric palm scanning

The famous Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado was an early adopter of the Amazon One tech, but Engadget reports that it dropped the palm scanners in March 2022 after tech advocacy group Fight for the Future published a letter calling on the venue's ticketing provider, AXS, to ban biometric surveillance. Hundreds of artists signed the letter, including Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna, and Sean Ono Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

This letter states concerns about biometric data being released to law enforcement that could result in "police harassment, violent arrests, and ICE raids at shows." These concerns are based on Amazon's track record of sharing surveillance data with law agencies, like granting the LAPD access to request Amazon Ring footage from users pertaining to BLM protests.

You may be wondering why the facial recognition tech in iPhones isn't equally concerning. There is one key difference, according to Mashable: Apple's Touch ID and Face ID data doesn't leave your phone, whereas Amazon One data is stored in the cloud. For this reason, several senators, including Amy Klobuchar and Bill Cassidy, raised concerns about data storage and previous hacks — which Amazon declined to comment on.

It seems that artists and human rights organizations are successfully rallying against this futuristic payment system — only time will tell what this means for the future of customers who shop at Whole Foods.

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