In the Near Future, Paying with Your Hand Could be the New Norm
Soon, you’ll have the ability to make purchases with a simple swipe of your hand.
Pay-by-palm is currently offered at over 200 Whole Foods Market stores across the United States, all of which are owned by Amazon. According to a press release on July 20, by the end of the year, this payment option will be available in all 500+ Whole Foods stores throughout the country.
By signing up for the Amazon One program, customers can conveniently pay for groceries without needing their wallets or phones.
Amazon One is a biometric-based payment method that utilizes unique physical features such as your face or palm print to authorize transactions.
Here’s the general process: You enroll in a biometric payment program like Amazon One by providing your credit or debit card information, as well as other necessary details like your phone number or a valid ID, depending on the retailer. Then, you scan your hand, face, or fingerprints, which are associated with your user profile. After that, you can use your hand, face, or fingerprints to make payments at participating locations.
However, some experts in technology and cybersecurity have raised concerns about this emerging technology.
The Security Concerns Surrounding Biometric Payments
While it may seem that using your hand or face for payments is more secure since they are unique to you and cannot be lost like a credit or debit card, Hafiz Malik, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in cybersecurity, argues otherwise.
According to Malik, artificial intelligence technology can be used to create fake versions of your voice, face, or handprint, which can then be used to deceive biometric-based payment systems.
“To detect whether these identities are being spoofed or impersonated, countermeasures such as liveness detection need to be in place,” he explains.
To its credit, Amazon states that its palm scanners incorporate liveness-detection technology, enabling them to differentiate between a real palm and a fake one.
Consumers should also be aware that the database where their biometric data is stored could potentially be hacked.
“When you entrust your data to a private corporation, you are relying on that company to keep your data secure. Unfortunately, most of the time, they fail to do so,” says Evan Greer, the director of Fight for the Future, an organization advocating for digital rights.
“Corporations have a poor track record when it comes to protecting our personal information,” she tells Make It.
If your biometric data is stolen, replacing it would be extremely difficult compared to replacing a stolen credit card or Social Security number, Greer adds.
Furthermore, Cynthia Rudin, a professor at Duke University specializing in computer science, bioinformatics, and electrical and computer engineering, warns that if databases containing biometric information fall into the wrong hands, it could have dangerous consequences.
“Those datasets can be used to control us anywhere in the world, including arresting us or preventing us from entering certain stores or venues due to our socioeconomic status or political views,” Rudin cautions.
Greer emphasizes the sensitivity of biometric information and encourages individuals to protect it as they would their personal details like their address or Social Security number.
“Everyone should prioritize protecting their biometric information, even in an age where many people feel that their privacy is no longer secure or worth protecting,” she says.
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