More than 30 activist groups and 200 artists have signed an open letter demanding that companies reject Amazon’s palm-scanning technology once and for all. The letter, which was written by Fight For The Future, details the ways in which palm recognition technology can be just as harmful as the facial recognition tools that many lawmakers and businesses have recently turned against.
The letter focuses on spreading the technology – called Amazon One – to concert halls like Colorado’s Red Rock Amphitheater, which announced plans to start using it in September. It is also aimed at AXS – a digital ticket provider – and AEG Worldwide, which owns many stadiums around the world.
âThe introduction of palm scanning devices is a slap in the face for fans and artists who have fought so hard to promote the safety of all at live events,â the letter read.
The letter points out that beyond being invasive, installing Amazon One terminals in AEG stadiums is also simply hypocritical. As recently as 2019, AEG took a strong stand against the use of facial recognition data for its events – and palm recognition technology shares many of the disadvantages of facial recognition.
The dark side of the palm – The Fight For The Future letter presents the worst case scenarios associated with Amazon One. It is not about the day-to-day operations of the stadiums themselves; this is the heavy power associated with any collection of biometric data.
The letter’s conclusions about where palm scanning could lead are similar to the alarms that have been set off for years about facial recognition. Here’s what it boils down to: Biometric data makes it easier to track people. Much easier than data like your phone number or address. Any access to this data is extremely dangerous.
Handing over your biometrics to Amazon is problematic enough – the company’s privacy record is pretty horrendous – but the situation grows darker. Biometric data stored in the cloud, however secure, is hackable, on the one hand. On the other hand, Amazon could choose at any time to cede its biometric data stores to government organizations like ICE and DHS.
Banish all – Biometric scanning technology is all about convenience. Scanning your palm at the door is faster for event staff and easier for customers than using physical or digital tickets. It is this convenience that drives companies like AEG to work with Amazon.
It is impossible to implement biometric technology without risking user privacy. This risk is multiplied several times for marginalized populations. Without proper government oversight – which doesn’t exist at the moment – it’s impossible for the benefits of Amazon One to outweigh its dangers. Lawmakers have voiced concerns about the technology, but no policy changes have yet been adopted.
Will this letter encourage AEG and its partners to reconsider their big contract with Amazon? As much as we would like to say, the honest answer is that the deal is unlikely to collapse unless the money involved is seriously threatened. The sentiment shared against Amazon One is powerful nonetheless, and we can hope that the show of force will at least bring more public attention to the risks of the technology.