Amazon Fights Lawsuit Over Biometric Data Collection At Cashless Stores

Amazon is asking a judge to throw out a lawsuit accusing the company of failing to comply with a New York City law requiring companies to notify consumers about their collection of biometric data.

The case, brought in March by Brooklyn resident Alfredo Rodriguez Perez, focuses on Amazon Go brick-and-mortar stores, which allow people to check out without paying a cashier.

Perez alleged in his complaint that he entered an Amazon Go store in Manhattan on January 30, 2023, and that the company's cameras and scanners then collected a broad range of biometric data about him and other shoppers. He specifically alleged that the company's technology identifies shoppers based on the “size and shape” of their bodies, then tracks them until they leave the store.

Amazon allegedly draws on the data as part of its checkout procedure, which allows customers to make purchases without waiting in line and then handing over cash or a credit card. The cashless technology, which Amazon calls “Just Walk Out,” allows people who have registered their palm prints with Amazon One to make purchases by scanning their palms. Customers who don't register their palm prints can enter the store by either scanning a credit card connected to their Amazon accounts, or using a smartphone app.

Rodriguez Perez claims in his complaint that Amazon is violating a 2022 New York City law requiring companies that collect biometric data to post a “clear and conspicuous sign” near the entrance. That law allows consumers to sue for up to $5,000 per violation.

On Monday, the company asked U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote in the Southern District of New York to dismiss the lawsuit at an early stage.

Among other arguments, Amazon says Rodriguez Perez consented to data collection by using an app to enter the store. The app provides people with an entry code, and also notifies people that their use of the code constitutes agreement to Amazon's conditions of use and privacy notice.

Rodriguez Perez “cannot choose to enter an Amazon Go store after agreeing to terms disclosing that the store would use 'cameras, computer vision, [and] sensors' to track his activity, and then claim that he had no idea that Amazon was using such technology to track him in the store,” Amazon writes. “And even if Rodriguez Perez did not read the privacy notice, it was his choice not to do so.”

The company also said the data it collects isn't detailed enough to identify individuals. Instead, the Just Walk Out technology relies on “broad, distinguishing features that allow it to differentiate between the few dozen shoppers in the Amazon Go store” at the same time, Amazon writes.

“A customer can thus use an Amazon Go store even if they are in a head-to-toe covering,” Amazon writes. “Indeed, because the technology does not capture unique identifying information, it cannot even detect that a person who left and then promptly reentered the store is the same person.”

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