Tuesday, January 18, 2022

No touching please – just hover your palm

Amazon's palm reader is the ultimate no-contact way of paying in shops or getting into secured locations.

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We’re all now used to buying online with credit cards but sometimes we just can’t avoid getting up and struggling out to a traditional brick’n’mortar store for an emergency treat.

In these hyper hygienic times, street-based retailers are reluctant to accept cash, or anything that involves hand-to-hand contact with their staff.

Now, Amazon is touting a new payment system called Amazon One, for use in the physical world. It’s a digital device which allows customers to pay by hovering their palm over a scanner.

Amazon say the system could be used for entering a location like a sports stadium, or scanning yourself into work instead of using an ID card, punching a keypad or nodding at the duty security officer.

“Palm-based identification is based on capturing the vein patterns of the palm,” Basel Halak of the Electronics and Computer Science School at the University of Southampton told the BBC. “The level of security is roughly similar to a fingerprint scan, but can be used at a distance of a few inches, making it much more practical.

“This form of biometric authentication is based on physical characteristics that stay constant throughout one’s lifetime and are difficult to fake, change or steal,” he said.

Facial recognition systems are rapidly falling out of favour because unlike palms faces are recognisable, and they have practical limitations in a time of mandatory masks. Also there have been recent concerns about potential racial bias.

Privacy group Big Brother Watch is not convinced by any of it.

“No one should have to provide biometric data in order to buy goods or services. Amazon’s attempt to normalise biometric payment risks building a world in which we’re easily tracked and recorded,” its director Silkie Carlo said.

Amazon promises that your palm print will not be stored on site but encrypted and kept securely in the Cloud.

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