Thursday, July 21, 2005

Biometrics at the grocery store? Eek!

A few days old, but scary, nonetheless, is this story about the introduction of biometric payment at "one of the least technological chain of grocery stores in the US."

Piggly Wiggly wiggles themselves into the 21st century, but at what cost?: "Piggly Wiggly is the first chain to roll out biometric payment pads to their entire corporation. The idea behind the biometric pads is that you can link your fingerprint to either a checking account or credit card and when you are ready to pay for your groceries by simply pressing your thumb on the pad and away you go. Shoppers can also link their fingerprint to their 'store loyalty cards' so they don't have to carry their cards anymore"

Now, for me, those store loyalty cards present problems as is. I only use one, and that's for UPromise, because I'm all about anything that can help me earn more dollars for a college education that will cost more than a good-sized house by the time the kid turns 18. But having your loyalty cards, credit cards, checking account, etc. all linked to your prints seems a little scary to me.

Big Brother paranoia/security and privacy concerns aside, I find this snippet interesting, as well:

The security concerns don't seem to be stopping people from signing up for the service. 15-20% percent of Piggly Wiggly's noncash customers are now using Pay By Touch, only weeks after the rollout was completed. Apparently a good number of the early adopters are from a demographic that is considered to be afraid of technology: senior citizens. The explanation behind the willingness of seniors to switch is that a lot of the seniors were as concerned with offline (good ol' fashioned beat you over the head) theft as they were identity theft. The seniors said that they were thankful for a system that allowed them to leave their checks and credit cards at home.

Seniors getting on the bandwagon with the thumbprint payment system seems just, well, odd, but then again, I guess no one can steal your thumbs while you're not guarding your purse, and you won't inadvertently leave them at the checkout terminal after paying, either.

- posted by laurie @ 7/21/2005 08:13:00 AM
I'm not a fan of loyalty cards either. But I have been using the same Kroger card for 3 years and just never filled out the paperwork. Same with CVS. Otherwise, where I live, you end up paying a lot more.
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