What is Amazon’s new palm payment system? | WORLD
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What is Amazon’s new palm payment system?

BACKGROUNDER | Scanning technology at Whole Foods allows customers to make purchases without opening their wallets


What is Amazon’s new palm payment system?
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Amazon, the owner of Whole Foods Market, is taking contactless payment to a whole new plane. On July 20, the tech giant announced plans to expand the use of Amazon One, its palm-scanning technology that allows customers to purchase groceries without opening their wallets. The company launched the service in 2020, and it is currently used at more than 400 businesses across the country, including select Whole Foods stores.

How do the scanners work? To get started, customers hold their hand over one of the company’s Amazon One readers and insert a debit or credit card into the machine to register their unique handprint. The system stores the payment method, and users can then enter Amazon-owned stores and pay for products using only their hand. Customers can also pre-enroll online with their payment method before scanning their palm in-store. Amazon Prime members can connect their accounts to Amazon One for membership deals and savings.

Where will the scanners be used? Amazon plans to install the system at every Whole Foods store in the country by the end of the year. The chain has more than 500 locations. The technology also will be available at Amazon Fresh stores. Some Panera Bread restaurants, Starbucks locations, stadiums, concert venues, and airport retailers will also offer the touch-free payment method.

Why is Amazon doing this? Amazon One is designed to compete with Apple’s and Google’s ­digital wallet systems. But Amazon says the system is intended to be used for more than just payments. In addition to purchases, the company said the technology could be used to verify a customer’s age, link to loyalty programs, and provide entry to venues and other buildings.

Is this a security risk? According to Amazon, palm scans are difficult to replicate because the technology uses both the palm and the underlying vein structure to create “palm signatures.” The company says it will limit its data collection from the system and will not share user data unless it is required to comply with a legal order. But some experts worry the technology could be used to track customers’ purchases online and offline.

Has the technology received much pushback? In 2022, a group of advocacy organizations and ­artists petitioned Denver Arts & Venues to remove Amazon One from Red Rocks Amphitheater. The system was installed in 2021, but the critics published an open letter raising concerns that palmprint data could be stolen from the cloud or shared with government agencies. Red Rocks ultimately relented and dropped the service.


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