Federal Legislators Probe Amazon for Information About Biometric Data Collection Practices

Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) have some questions about Amazon’s palm-print recognition and payment system, according to Sen. Cassidy’s press release issued last Friday. In a Aug. 12 letter addressed to new Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, the lawmakers expressed concern about the technology and requested more information about how the company plans to use and safeguard user data.

The letter explained Amazon’s recent expansion and promotion of Amazon One, including its rollout of the technology at more than 50 retail locations throughout the country including Amazon Go and Whole Foods locations. In addition, Amazon is reportedly incentivizing consumers to share their biometric information with Amazon One in exchange for a $10 promotional credit for Amazon.com products. Future expansion plans may include selling or licensing the technology to third-party stores, the letter noted.

The senators said that their apprehensions over user information “are heightened by evidence that Amazon shared voice data with third-party contractors and allegations that Amazon has violated biometric privacy laws.” Too, the letter mentioned worries that Amazon could use data from Amazon One purchasers to “further cement its competitive power and suppress competition across various markets.”

Amazon One users may experience harm if their data is insecure, the letter warned. It contrasts biometric systems like Apple’s Face ID and Touch ID or Samsung Pass, which store biometric information on a user’s device, with Amazon One, which allegedly uploads biometric information to the cloud, compounding security risks.

Last week’s probe posed several questions, including Amazon One’s expansion timetable, how many third-parties Amazon has permitted to use the technology, and what security precautions have been taken. The legislators also inquire whether Amazon One palm reading data is ever paired with biometric data from facial recognition systems. The senators requested a written response from the company by August 26.