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Amazon Sued Over Facial Recognition Technology

The e-commerce giant’s grocery stores ran afoul of laws on biometric tracking.

The role of Amazon in the downfall of traditional brick-and-mortar retail has been well-documented, but the e-commerce titan still sees a role for in-person shopping — particularly for food.

The company acquired natural foods chain Whole Foods for nearly $14 billion in 2017, and the following year, it debuted a grocery store of its own. Known as Amazon Go, the company outlined how the shops would cut the checkout line out of the grocery experience: shoppers would simply walk in, grab their items and walk out — Amazon would log their activity in the store, then charge their accounts accordingly.

But the system, of course, relies on sophisticated tracking technology — a thorny issue in New York City, where Amazon expanded its stores in 2019.

Now, NBC News reports, it faces a federal lawsuit over the matter.

Amid growing concerns from privacy advocates, New York in 2021 joined the growing number of municipalities to enact disclosure requirements for businesses who use biometric tracking, such as facial recognition or fingerprint scanning. Those businesses are required to post signs notifying visitors of the activity.

Amazon, a class-action lawsuit filed Thursday alleges, failed to do so for more than a year after the new law took effect.

Attorneys for the plaintiff in the case, a man named Alfredo Rodriguez Perez, said he notified Amazon of the violations after visiting a location in lower Manhattan in early February. Amazon allegedly ignored the matter beyond the 30-day window stipulated in city law, only to post a small, misleading sign after a subsequent article in the New York Times.

The complaint asks the court to require Amazon to comply with the tracking law and award unspecified damages.

Amazon did not provide a response to NBC News.

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