Ordering at Panera? Put Up Your Palm

Critics say chain's plan to use biometrics payment system could lead to privacy issues
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 1, 2023 6:30 AM CDT

Soon, paying at Panera Bread will be as easy as holding up your hand. That's because the bakery-cafe chain will be rolling out a palm-reading payment system over the next few months, expediting transactions but raising concerns among privacy advocates. NPR reports that the biometrics technology it plans on using is the Amazon One system, developed by Amazon, and that it will not only be able to facilitate payments via a customer's credit card, but also access that customer's Panera loyalty account. Panera, which has already started test-driving the Amazon One system in select stores in the St. Louis area, will be the first national restaurant chain to implement the system.

Other venues that use Amazon's biometrics tech include certain stadiums, airports, and Whole Foods Market stores, the latter of which are owned by Amazon. "Introducing Amazon One, as a frictionless, personalized, and convenient service, is another way we're redefining the loyalty experience," Panera CEO Niren Chaudhary said in a release last week. The Panera release notes that customers have to opt in to take part in the program, and that palm images aren't kept on the Amazon One device in-store. "All images are encrypted and sent to a highly secure area custom-built for Amazon One in the cloud where palm signatures are created," per the release.

However, critics want to know what Amazon plans on doing with that information it's collecting in the cloud. Plus, they're afraid hackers could infiltrate the system and steal sensitive data—data that "unlike passwords, cannot be changed after it is compromised," per the Guardian. In 2021, a bipartisan group of senators penned a letter to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy demanding to know more about Amazon One. "Amazon's expansion of biometric data collection through Amazon One raises serious questions about Amazon's plans for this data and its respect for user privacy, including about how Amazon may use the data for advertising and tracking purposes," the letter noted. One lawsuit against Amazon alleging privacy violation has already been filed. (More Panera Bread stories.)

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