Americans may have thought that physical marketplaces were safe from Big Tech surveillance. But Amazon is now tracking consumers as they shop at offline markets too.
Amazon recently opened its first full-size Amazon Fresh grocery store with both “Just Walk Out” technology and checkout options. Just Walk Out technology can track every move of shoppers in the store and allows customers to “just walk out” instead of having to wait in checkout lines. While consumers may find the new technology convenient, Amazon uses cameras and artificial intelligence to watch consumer shopping habits.
A recent Amazon blog explained that “Just Walk Out technology is made possible by a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.” Amazon bragged that its video-powered technology can determine what people buy: “Anything [customers] take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart.”
Customers set up the virtual cart when they walk into the store. They allegedly “can scan the QR code in their Amazon app, use Amazon One to scan their palm, or insert a credit or debit card linked to their Amazon account,” Amazon explained. Customers are later charged when they leave.
The most concerning of the three payment methods is the Amazon One biometric scan. “Amazon One's customized hardware captures the minute characteristics of your palm – both surface-area details like lines and ridges as well as subcutaneous features such as vein patterns – to create your palm signature,” the company explained. Amazon introduced the payment method last fall in Amazon Go and Amazon Books stores. It is reportedly set to hit Whole Foods Market stores soon, according to The Verge.
Just Walk Out is not the only creepy technology Amazon is developing in 2021. Amazon announced its Ring Car Cam and Always Home Cam drone, which will allow both Amazon and users to see inside their cars and homes. The company also switched on Amazon Sidewalk “for everyone,” and without appearing to ask for permission. The Sidewalk wireless network “shares a slice of your home Internet connection with your neighbors’ devices,” The Washington Post reported. The newspaper also noted that users have “no control over what sort of data [they’re] helping to transmit.”
Amazon claimed that Just Walk Out technology “only collect[s] the data needed to provide shoppers with an accurate receipt” and that it could be compared to “security camera footage.” But Amazon’s combined technologies — Amazon Sidewalk, the Ring Car Cam, and Just Walk Out — have the potential to track a consumer’s entire trip from the car to the store and home again.
Conservatives are under attack. Contact Amazon at (206) 266-1000 or by mail to 410 Terry Avenue North Seattle, WA 98109 and demand the platform provide transparency while giving weight to privacy concerns. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.