Lawsuit argues Amazon illegally surveilled NYC customers including tracking their body size. Here’s why Amazon Go stores are watching you.
- Amazon Go stores, which have no cashiers, use a system of cameras and tech to track customers.
- A new lawsuit alleges the company’s stores in New York City illegally collect data on customers’ size and shape without telling them.
- A lawyer on the case said he hopes the lawsuit catches the attention of local and federal government.
Customers at Amazon Go stores are tracked using a system of cameras, sensors, and motion detection software to create a shopping experience free from cashiers and checkout lines — but a new lawsuit is arguing that the company never really told New York City customers that they’re being surveilled.
The class action lawsuit filed this week claims that Amazon collects data on the shape and size of customers’ bodies — and even scans of some customers’ hands — without proper warning.
“From the moment a person walks through the door … Amazon uses computer vision to track people,” Peter Roman-Friedman, lead attorney on the lawsuit, told Insider.
The lawsuit pertains specifically to nine Amazon’s Go stores in New York City, where city law says companies must disclose when customers’ biometric data is being collected. Still, Roman-Friedman said he hopes the lawsuit catches the eye of lawmakers on other local and federal levels.
The company denies using facial recognition software in its stores, but has not responded to use of other biometric data. Insider reached out to Amazon for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
“Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning,” according to a description of the technology on Amazon’s website.
Amazon had failed to post signs at its New York stores addressing biometric data for over a year, putting them in place this week — after the New York Times reported their absence, according to the lawsuit. The new signs say no biometric data is being collected outside use of the palm scanner.
The data is a crucial piece of the high-tech stores’ ability to charge customers for the items they take without employing a cashier — Amazon creates skeleton-like models based on people’s size and shape, which mirror the real movements customers make inside the store.
Once inside, cameras and motion detection software are used to follow customers, who don’t have to check out because their purchases are tracked in real-time. Amazon Go customers must use an app or credit card linked to their Amazon account, or the store’s palm scanner, which is available only to customers who opt to link their handprints to their accounts. Amazon charges their accounts once they leave.
The lawsuit also claims the new signs at Amazon Go stores are designed with colors, style, and fonts that make them easier to ignore.