Amazon One — Talk to the Hand!

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Here while I was getting fascinated by one click away payment options, Amazon steals a quick chuckle earlier this week by unveiling Amazon One — A palm-vein scanner payments option.

The Amazon One hardware verifies a user’s identity by looking at “the minute characteristics of your palm — both surface-area details like lines and ridges as well as subcutaneous features such as vein patterns.”

So essentially, you pick your groceries at the store, go to the checkout counter, hover your palm above the Amazon One hardware, and Voila — You’re done!

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Since we are very optimistic people, let’s look at the bright side of things first, and then we can deep-dive into the dark stuff.

1) Contactless Payment — Amazon One encourages contactless payment and considering the uncertainty of how long we are into the pandemic protocols, it eases the checkout experience to a great extent

2) Quick, easy, and butter-smooth — Customer convenience has undoubtedly been Amazon’s top motto reemphasizing services like one-day delivery and whatnot. Trust this company to build a customer experience around the payment step as well.

3) Relatively Secure Transaction — Since palm-vein patterns are unique to a person and more difficult to replicate unlike in the case of fingerprints, the chances of fraudulent transactions will drastically reduce.

A good trip to La-La Land, right? Now think about this, a venture like Amazon will not build a hardware infrastructure this strong and big just for Amazon Go stores, so it’s quite natural to wonder about the expansion plans of this behemoth. Sooner or later this technology will spread into identity verification terminals from payment infrastructure for use cases like biometric scanning at the office or checkout counters at your restaurant. This would mean that Amazon will hold the extensive and most personal form of customer information. That brings me to the not so silver lining –

1) Data Security — If Amazon plans to store the biometric data of millions of people on the cloud, how safe is it going to be from hackers and interested third parties with not so great intentions.

2) Too much information — I haven’t come across any company except for AliExpress ventures which holds this much data about customer’s buying patterns. Now imagine that company having quite literally Big Data about your spending patterns too. Would you be worried about the influenced buying, targeted marketing, and in the soul essence that — With great data comes great power and highly unregulated responsibility?

3) Ethical Dilemma — Elizabeth Renieris, a law, and policy researcher who focuses on data governance and human rights issues points out that — “The closest thing we have now is things like Apple Wallet and Apple Pay and other device-based payments infrastructure. But I just think, philosophically and ethically, there’s extreme value in having a physical separation between your transaction infrastructure and your physical self — your personhood and your body. As we merge the two … a lot of the rights that are based on the boundedness of a person are further threatened.”

I know, the last point launches me into the wonderland too.

But with ever rapidly evolving technology around us — Artificial intelligence, Machine Learning, Contactless Payments, and more — there will always be an open debate upon boon or bane. No number of pros and cons list on a yellow pad will draw a conclusion. However, the least we can do is be cognizant of the changes and who is using our data!!

The idea of this article is heavily inspired by the below read. Please check it out for more insights –

Credit & Fraud Risk Analyst — American Express | Devoted Proponent of Maximum Financial Inclusion | Hustling To Bring Life Into Art and Writing.