Comments by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News

Several consumers in New York have sued and Starbucks for unauthorized use of their palm scans.

Plaintiffs bring this action for damages and other legal and equitable remedies resulting from the illegal actions of Amazon and Starbucks in collecting, retaining, storing, converting, using, sharing, and profiting from Plaintiffs’and other similarly situated individuals’ biometric identifier information (referred to at times as “biometrics”)—their hand geometry (“hand geometry” or “palm scans” or “palm prints”) and/or body geometry (“physiological characteristics concern[ing] the shape or composition of the body”)—in direct violation of the New York City Biometric Identifier Information Law.

On January 11, 2021, the City of New York enacted a new law that requires retailers and other commercial establishments that collect, retain, convert, store, or share customers’ “biometric identifier information” to notify their customers of these practices before customers enter those establishments. SeeN.Y.C. Admin. Code § 22-1201 et seq.

The type of information the law applies to includes any physiological or biological characteristic that is used to identify (or assist in identifying) a person, such asfacial recognition, retina scans, fingerprints, handprints, or any other identifying characteristic like the shape or size of a person’s body. (Source.) reported on this.

Amazon and coffee retailer Starbucks are being sued in U.S. federal district court for misusing customers’ biometric identifiers.

The proposed class action (2:23-cv-00852) has been filed in the Western District Court of Washington. The named plaintiffs, Suzanne Mallouk, Alfredo Rodriguez Perez and Arjun Dhawan, claim their privacy rights were violated when visiting New York City stores that used Amazon’s One palm biometric scanners.

(The trio had filed separate cases but joined their claims in the state of Washington, which is home to both defendants.)

No specific sum is sought in the trial.

Biometric authentication as a method of payment at Amazon’s Go stores was introduced in New York City in 2019. One scanners have since been added to other stores owned by Amazon. It is also alleged that Amazon uses a person’s size and shape to identify them in the stores.

Each plaintiff alleges that Amazon is violating a 2021 city law by scanning palms without first posting required notices. That year, Starbucks went into business with Amazon in the first of multiple Starbucks-Go stores.

Plaintiff court documents charge that Starbucks “sells, trades and shares customers’ biometric identifier information with Amazon in exchange for various things of value, and otherwise profits” from the deal.

Specifically, the defendants are charged with “collecting, retaining, storing, converting, using, sharing and profiting” from hand geometries in violation of New York City’s Biometric Identifier Information Law (BII Law).

The defendants were obligated by the law to post caution signs on entry doors, but reportedly failed to do so.

According to court documents, the plaintiffs wrote to Amazon complaining about the alleged violations. One plaintiff also wrote to Starbucks but received no reply. (Full article.)

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