Amazon trialing biometric hand geometry payment, Ring may be developing facial recognition

Ring Ukraine is developing facial recognition technology, although the Amazon-owned Ring does not currently use it, BuzzFeed News reports.

The company has long said that it does not use facial biometrics, according to the report, but Ring Ukraine’s website describes crime prevention and monitoring systems in development as being based on facial recognition, and a presentation made in 2018 by Ring Ukraine’s “head of face recognition research.” Ring does use object detection to reduce the number of false motion alerts.

Ring’s relationship with law enforcement agencies suddenly became more controversial when it was revealed that the company has partnered with more than 400 police forces across the U.S., many more than previously thought. Privacy advocates and watchdogs have previously expressed concern about the relationship between Ring and police forces.

The company confirmed to BuzzFeed that it does not use facial recognition, but did not comment on the Ukrainian team’s research initiatives. The outlet reports that there are 1,000 Ring Ukraine employees, a number which may grow by 50 percent next year, and job postings for the team refer to facial recognition. The relation between Ring and Ring Ukraine is unclear, however, as the company says it uses third party contractors in the country, but does not have an office in Kiev.

Amazon has also launched a trial of biometric hand geometry recognition for vending machines at its New York offices, the New York Post reports. The non-contact system is code-named “Orville,” and a source told the Post that it will be linked to a credit or debit card through customers’ Amazon Prime accounts.

The source also said the technology is currently accurate to within one ten-thousandth of 1 percent, but the company plans to increase it to one millionth of 1 percent before launching it more widely. By the beginning of next year, however, Amazon plans to have the technology deployed at Whole Foods points of sale, and it could eventually be rolled out to all U.S. locations.

Unlike Amazon’s fully-automated Go stores, the biometric POS planned for Whole Foods will not require shoppers to be carrying smartphones.

“I think they probably made a judgment call that Americans are probably not going to want to pay with their face, but they’ll be fine to pay with their fingerprint or their hand,” technology ethics researcher Stephanie Hare told the Post. “That feels less like a mug shot.”

An Amazon representative declined to comment.

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