Amazon Go stores scan the palms of some customers and use cameras powered by algorithms to identify the unique size and shape of customer bodies, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Despite collecting such data, the stores have failed to comply with the city’s 2021 Biometric Identifier Information Law, which requires businesses to post signs notifying customers of biometric surveillance, the filing said.
It’s only the second federal lawsuit to cite the city statute, according to Bloomberg Law dockets. Both proposed class actions target Amazon and take issue with its palm print scanning technology, seeking at least $500 per negligent violation of each class member’s rights. The city biometrics law provides for up to $5,000 per reckless or intentional violation.
“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,” Amazon spokesperson Sarmishta Ramesh said in an emailed statement. “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.”
Amazon customer and New York City resident Alfredo Rodriguez Perez visited an Amazon Go store lacking surveillance signage on Jan. 30, but “would not have entered the store” had he been made aware of Amazon’s biometric data collection, the filing said.
“Mr. Rodriguez Perez believes that consumers should be fully informed about what data and information about them companies collect, retain, convert, store, share, and sell before those companies collect that data and information, so that consumers can understand and knowingly consent to the collection of that data and information,” the filing said.
Perez didn’t scan his palm to enter the store, but claims that Amazon Go stores also scan customer bodies in order to track what goods they purchase. The size and shape of a body qualify as biometric information under the city law because it is a physiological attribute being used as an identifying characteristic by Amazon, the lawsuit said.
Ramesh said in a later statement that the technology Amazon uses to track customer purchases doesn’t collect biometric information.
This month, Amazon Go stores in New York City posted signs notifying customers of biometric information collection that “falls woefully short of complying with the Biometric Identifier Information Law’s disclosure mandate,” according to the lawsuit.
The signs are not conspicuous, fail to describe every use of the biometric data collected, and mislead customers into thinking that only the palm scanner collections biometric information, the filing said.
Perez wants at least $500 per class member per violation of the law.
The other lawsuit, filed last month, makes similar claims about Amazon Go stores violating the city biometrics law by collecting palm prints without proper signage, but doesn’t make allegations about body scans. The plaintiff in that case seeks $5,000 for every reckless violation and $500 for every negligent violation of the law.
Perez is represented by Peter Romer-Friedman Law PLLC, Pollock Cohen LLP, and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project. Attorneys haven’t yet entered an appearance for Amazon.
The case is Perez v. Amazon.com, Inc., S.D.N.Y., No. 1:23-cv-02251, complaint filed 3/16/23.
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