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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A bipartisan group of senators wants to know how Amazon is protecting data privacy and security as it promotes a new palm-print recognition system that will allow consumers to pay for in-store purchases with a wave of the hands.

Why it matters: Amazon's move into biometrics opens up the tech giant to additional Washington scrutiny on a new front.

What's happening: Amazon One palm scanners allow for customers to make contactless payments once they have connected their credit card information to their palm print.

  • When it launched the program last year, Amazon said it intends to offer the service to third parties like retailers, stadiums and office buildings.
  • TechCrunch reported earlier this month the company is offering $10 in promotional credits to those who enroll and link to their Amazon account.

What they're saying: Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) pressed Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Amazon's biometric data collection practices in a letter Friday.

  • The program raises questions about how the e-commerce giant may use the data for advertising and tracking purposes, the senators said.
  • They want to know how many users have signed up, how many third-parties have licensed the technology, and whether Amazon plans to use the technology in additional locations of its Whole Foods subsidiary.
  • The lawmakers also raise antitrust concerns, saying the data could be used to "further cement [Amazon's] competitive power and suppress competition across various markets."

The other side: Amazon has said palm recognition is considered more private than some other types of biometric data since you can't use palm prints to determine someone's identity and since they're not scanned passively — people use them intentionally.

  • The images are encrypted and sent to a custom-built area of the cloud Amazon describes as "highly secure."

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated Oct 25, 2021 - Technology

Report: Amazon shortchanged workers on leave

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Amazon employees allege that they have been shortchanged pay while on leave, according to a New York Times investigation published Sunday.

Why it matters: Much of the recent spotlight on Amazon — along with Google, Apple and Facebook — has been over competition and privacy, but labor concerns have been growing across the industry as well.

Wall Street readies for Big Tech earnings reports

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

It’s all about Big Tech. The five largest companies in the S&P 500 — Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet — are set to report this week.

Why it matters: These heavyweights will overshadow most of the other 150+ reporting companies, in what will be the busiest earnings week of the quarter.

Climate reckoning for oil and gas CEOs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Top executives from ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell will face a reckoning on Capitol Hill Thursday, as they're grilled on evidence that their companies knew for years that their products were driving climate change but chose to downplay or deny it.

Why it matters: The hearing before the House Oversight Committee will be the first time these executives have been brought together to provide sworn testimony regarding what they knew about the ties between their company's products and climate change, and when they knew it.