Data Privacy and Cybersecurity

Palm-scanning payment technology raises privacy concerns

Panera announced it will be the first national restaurant chain to use palm-scanning technology. Amazon has already implemented it in some stores.

A man uses palm scanner technology.
A man uses palm-scanning technology.
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Soon you’ll be able to pay for things by scanning the palm of your hand.

“Biometric authentication has been there for a long time,” said Sanchari Das, a cybersecurity and privacy expert. She is an assistant professor at the University of Denver focused on cybersecurity and privacy from the user perspective.

We use our fingerprint at airports, our face to unlock our phones, and now Panera has announced that you’ll soon be able to scan your palm at checkout.

This is done by using Amazon One, Amazon’s palm-scanning payment system that has already been implemented at Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go locations in parts of the U.S.

Panera will be the first national restaurant chain to implement it. It will initially be deployed at select locations in St. Louis before expanding in the coming months.

“It is highly usable. We do not need additional technological knowledge to use biometric because that's something which we are,” Das said.

Das said it’s a great option for companies that can afford it, but there are also some cons. She mentioned this tech may be difficult to use in certain weather, like when it’s cold, for instance. There is also the potential for exclusion of those with physical disabilities or those who do not wish to share biometric data.

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There are also privacy concerns.

“How are they going to process and store this kind of data?” Das said. “Biometric people have to be all the more careful how it is implemented and how it is stored, and that is something that users don't know.”

While you can change a password, you can’t change your palm print.

Das said companies still have a few details to iron out around data storage and encryption, but technology like this is only going to become more popular.

“Definitely this is the future, and we should work towards it,” she said.

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