Amazon Go stores in New York City didn’t properly alert customers they were being biometrically tracked, lawsuit says
Amazon is facing a lawsuit alleging that the company did not properly notify customers entering its Amazon Go stores in New York City that it was tracking and collecting their biometric information.
The lawsuit claims that the e-commerce giant violated a New York City law passed in early 2021 which requires businesses that are collecting, storing or sharing “biometric identifier information” to post signage near their entrances alerting customers that they are doing so.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of shopper Alfredo Rodriguez Perez.
Amazon Go stores, which first opened in 2018, use what the company calls its “Just Walk Out Technology.” Shoppers scan a mobile app, and are then tracked using “computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning” technology as they place items in their carts, the company says on its website.
There are no cashiers and no need to checkout. Instead, shoppers simply walk out of the store, and their Amazon accounts are charged when they leave.
“Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart,” Amazon’s website reads.
The lawsuit alleges that Amazon Go collects shoppers biometric information “by scanning the palms of some customers to identify them and by applying computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensor fusion that measure the shape and size of each customer’s body to identify customers, track where they move in the stores, and determine what they have purchased.”
The lawsuit argues that since New York City began enacting its notification law in January 2021, Amazon Go stores “failed to post any signs” notifying shoppers that it was collecting such biometric information.
However, following a March 10 story in the New York Times on the use of facial recognition technology by businesses — Amazon Go stores in New York City posted their first notification signs on March 14, the lawsuit claims.
The signs read, “Biometric information collected at this location,” the suit said.
In a statement provided to CBS News Saturday in response to the lawsuit, an Amazon spokesperson said that Amazon Go stores “do not use facial recognition technology.”
“Amazon One, our contactless, palm-based identity and payment service, is one of the entry options offered at select Amazon Go stores along with credit card and the Amazon app,” the statement read. “Only shoppers who choose to enroll in Amazon One and choose to be identified by hovering their palm over the Amazon One device have their palm-biometric data securely collected, and these individuals are provided the appropriate privacy disclosures during the enrollment process. The customer is always in control of when they choose to be identified using their palm. Additionally, the Just Walk Out technology used to distinguish shoppers from one another is not biometric, and is used only to link a customer with their purchases during a single store visit.”