Biometric identification: is the risk worth the reward?

By: Sarah Simon-Patches

Date: 9/18/2023

If you’ve been to a Whole Foods lately, you may have noticed that there’s a new way to pay – using your hand. If you haven’t yet experienced this new phenomenon, don’t worry. Amazon is bringing its palm-scanning technology to over 500 Whole Foods stores by the end of this year1. If Whole Foods isn’t your thing, you might find the new technology in sports stadiums, raceways, and casinos2.  

The palm payment technology is part of Amazon One, a service that connects your Amazon account, and your payment information, to the palm of your hand3. This is done through a “palm signature”, which is Amazon’s way of storing your information through the lines and wrinkles on your palm4. When you hold your hand above the scanner, it reads your palm’s unique ridges, grooves, and vein patterns, and charges the payment method attached to your Amazon account5.

Amazon’s new technology isn’t only for payment, though. The technology’s capabilities can determine your age for alcohol purchase purposes6. This identification ability has raised major concerns from consumers and vendors to state senators7. Red Rocks Amphitheater, for example, cut ties with Amazon One after an open letter asked entertainment industry groups and venues to cancel contracts with Amazon One due to data security concerns8.

Currently, Amazon is facing a class action lawsuit related to its Amazon Go stores tracking New York customers’ body shapes, sizes, and palm prints without providing proper notice as required by a New York City biometric surveillance law9.

Amazon’s assurance to consumers is that your identity is unique to you. Your stored payment and other information can’t be stolen in the way that a credit card otherwise could10. However, there are experts who believe AI can copy voices, faces, and even your palm11. Amazon’s response has been its use of liveness-detections technology, which is supposed to be able to tell a difference between a real palm and a fake one12. Further, Amazon claims its combination of palm and vein imagery is unusable to third parties and says your data will not be bought or sold to other companies, or used by Amazon itself, for marketing and advertising13.

Even with promises of safety and data protection, Amazon’s track record of data collection may influence your decision to use Amazon One. For one, Amazon recently reached a $25 million settlement following allegations of violating children’s privacy rights through the company’s voice assistant, Alexa14. This comes after Amazon’s failed attempt in 2018 to defeat a California law which requires disclosure of the information collected from consumers15.

So, while replacing a stolen credit card or stolen Social Security number seems time-consuming and difficult, consider the possibility of trying to replace your actual identity– your voice, face, or palm print. Is the convenience of paying with your hand worth the unknown security risks and questions associated with biometric identification technology? If it’s worth it to you, you can try it out at your local Whole Foods.


1 Emma Ross, All 500-plus Whole Foods stores will soon let you pay with a palm scan / Amazon One links your palm signature to your payment method and identity, The Verge (July 20, 2023),

2 Sarah Perez, Amazon’s palm-scanning payment technology is coming to all 500+ Whole Foods, TechCrunch (July 20, 2023),

3 Amazon, How it works Meet Amazon One,, (last visited Sept. 13, 2023).

4 Id.

5 Id.

6 Supra, note 1.

7 Supra, note 2.

8 Id.

9 Skye Witley, Amazon Sued Over NYC Go Store Collection of Palm, Body Scans (2), Bloomberg Law (March 16, 2023)

10 Cheyenne DeVon, Amazon will soon let you pay for groceries with your palm at any Whole Foods—but tech experts urge caution, CNBC (August 26, 2023)

11 Id.

12 Id.

13 Supra, note 2.

14 Mohamed Dabo, Amazon settles $25m lawsuit over Alexa’s privacy breach, Retail Insight Network (June 1, 2023)

15 Chris Kirkham and Jeffrey Dastin, A look at the intimate details Amazon knows about us, Reuters (November 19, 2021)