Amazon is facing a lawsuit alleging that the company failed to properly inform customers entering its Amazon Go stores in New York City that it was tracking and collecting their biometric information.
The lawsuit alleges that the e-commerce giant violated a New York City law passed in early 2021 requiring businesses that collect, store or share “biometric identification information” to post signs at their entrances alerting customers that they do this.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of shopper Alfredo Rodriguez Perez.
Amazon Go stores, those opened first in 2018, use what the company calls its “Just Walk Out Technology.” Shoppers scan a mobile app and are then tracked using “computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning” technology as they place items in their shopping cart, the company said on its website.
There are no cashiers and you don’t have to pay. Instead, customers simply walk out of the store and their Amazon accounts are charged when they leave.
“Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are pulled from shelves or returned and tracks them in a virtual shopping cart,” Amazon’s website reads.
The lawsuit alleges that Amazon Go collects customer biometric information “by scanning the palms of some customers to identify them and applying computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion that measure the shape and size of each customer’s body to identify customers, track where they move in the stores and determine what they have purchased.”
The lawsuit argues that since New York City began enacting the reporting law in January 2021, Amazon Go stores have “not put up any sign” informing shoppers that it was collecting such biometric information.
However, after a March 10 story in the New York Times about companies’ use of facial recognition technology — Amazon Go stores in New York City posted their first warning signs on March 14, the lawsuit alleges.
The placards read, “Biometric information collected at this location,” the suit said.
In a statement provided to CBS News Saturday in response to the lawsuit, an Amazon spokesperson said Amazon Go stores “do not use facial recognition technology.”
“Amazon One, our contactless, palm-based identity and payment service, is one of the access options offered at select Amazon Go stores, along with credit card and the Amazon app,” the statement said. “Only shoppers who choose to enroll in Amazon One and choose to be identified by moving their palm over the Amazon One device will have their palm biometrics securely collected, and those individuals will be provided with appropriate privacy notices during the enrollment process. The customer is always in control of when they choose to be identified with their palm. In addition, the Just Walk Out technology used to distinguish shoppers from one another is not biometric and is only used to identify a customer link to their purchases during a single store visit.”