There's no good reason for Starbucks to use Amazon's palm-scanning tech

Starbucks is opening a cashierless location in New York City that utilizes Amazon's palm-recognition technology.

Starbucks is piloting the use of Amazon’s palm-scanning technology at a new store in New York City. The store, which will be located at 59th street between Park and Lexington Avenues, is much more Amazon than your typical Starbucks café; it sells grab-and-go food items à la Amazon Go alongside a full Starbucks menu.

The palm-scanning terminals aren’t the only piece of tech the new location will be borrowing from Amazon. The Starbucks will be fitted with the “Just Walk Out” sensors Amazon uses at its own cashierless locations, allowing customers to pick up whichever items they’d like and be automatically charged for them upon walking out.

Those looking for actual Starbucks drinks will need to order through the Starbucks app. The store is cashierless but not barista-less — thank goodness — so your drink will be made by hand and customized however you’d like.

Of course, there are caveats to this uniquely easy way of paying. One of them is that you have to be willing to trust Amazon with securely storing your biometric data.

A privacy nightmare, all for coffee — Unlike other forms of payment verification, palm-scanning involves biometric data — that is, data intimately linked to your corporeal form. Biometric data makes it very easy to track people — much easier than data like your address or phone number. If that information falls into the wrong hands, it could become very dangerous indeed.


That’s why activists are working to bring attention to the fact that palm-scanning is just as invasive as facial recognition technology. And neither Amazon nor Starbucks is exactly going out of their way to warn customers of the technology’s darker side.

How is this any easier? — Okay, let’s put our security and privacy concerns for a moment. Let’s imagine that Amazon is incredibly trustworthy and will store your handprint in an impenetrable digital vault.

Even in the most ideal of situations, adding a palm scanner does not seem like it will actually make picking up your Starbucks drink much more convenient than it already is. Starbucks’ pickup program is already incredibly easy: order your drink, pay ahead with a saved card or store credit, and pick it up in-store. Adding palm scanners doesn’t really simplify that process. Did we mention you can’t even enter the lounge area without saving your info to Amazon?

Somebody at Starbucks thinks Amazon’s tech will draw in more customers, it seems. There are two more cashierless locations opening up soon in NYC.