Amazon is in early talks to test hand-scanning payment terminals

The mechanisms and privacy needs of the new technology are unclear.

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Now that it’s become one of the world’s largest tech companies, Amazon is dreaming bigger than ever. The company is testing checkout terminals that would allow consumers to pay with a wave of their hand. This comes after an earlier report that Amazon was testing palm-reading terminals at Whole Foods.

How this will work is... unclear — The technology involved in creating a palm reader for purchases is still very much in development. Amazon recently filed a patent for a “non-contact biometric identification system” including “a hand scanner that generates images of the user’s palm.”

But more details are scarce. Sources familiar with the idea say Amazon envisions a terminal where users could link their debit or credit card information and then scan their hands.

But you’d have to let Amazon store your handprint — Consumers are already putting a lot of trust in big tech by storing their credit card information in cloud servers. In order to pay with the swipe of a palm, users would need to trust Amazon with a detailed image of their hand, too. This information would then need to be processed and quantified for future payments.

That’s a lot of personal information to hand over to Amazon (pun intended). Amazon could easily track what goods you’re buying, even when you’re not shopping on its website. It could take that information and sell it to advertisers. And if your palm data fell into the wrong hands, it could be dangerous.

Still in preliminary talks — Amazon is talking to both Visa and Mastercard about testing transactions on the terminals. Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have both shown interest in allowing their cards to work with the technology. If they want to get involved in the project, card issuers and networks will need to ensure the safety of users’ financial information and be proactive in detecting fraud.