Panera to adopt palm-reading payment systems, sparking privacy fears | Biometrics

The US bakery and cafe chain Panera will soon allow customers to pay with the swipe of a palm, marking the first restaurant chain to implement the new technology and raising alarm among privacy advocates.

The company announced last week it would roll out biometric readers in coming months that will allow customers to access credit card and loyalty account information by scanning their palms. Called Amazon One, the system was developed by Amazon and is in use at some airports, stadiums and Whole Foods grocery stores.

Panera, which has more than 2,000 locations across the country, is the first nationwide restaurant chain to use the tool. Through the new program, visitors will scan their palms to be greeted by name and receive customized order recommendations based on past preferences. They will also be able to pay with the palm-scanning tech.

Amazon One’s expansion into non-Amazon facilities has faced widespread scrutiny. In 2021, Denver Arts & Venues dropped plans to use palm-scanning technology for ticketless entry at concerts in Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver after opposition from the digital rights group Fight for the Future.

“The marginal-at-best convenience of scanning a hand instead of a ticket is no excuse for implementing technology that will exacerbate violent systems and cause immeasurable harm,” the group said.

Panera did not specify where the technology would be available but said it had already been deployed at a number of bakery-cafes in St Louis, Missouri, where the company is based. Panera’s loyalty program includes about 52 million members.

Amazon launched its palm-reading technology at Amazon Go locations in late 2020, and is now facing a lawsuit relating to privacy violations after a shopper in New York City claimed customers were not properly notified such data would be collected.

Privacy advocates say this data is at high risk of being hacked and stolen, and, unlike passwords, cannot be changed after it is compromised. Lawmakers have raised these concerns with Amazon One in the past. In 2021, Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Jon Ossoff of Georgia demanded additional information about the program.

“Amazon’s expansion of biometric data collection through Amazon One raises serious questions about Amazon’s plans for this data and its respect for user privacy, including about how Amazon may use the data for advertising and tracking purposes,” the senators wrote at the time.

Amazon and Panera did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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