Pull My Finger… For Payment

from the they-stole-my-wallet-and-my-finger dept

A new report says Wal-Mart and Costco are investigating biometric payment systems that scan people’s fingers to identify them and call up payment information. The systems are already in use at some supermarket chains, and aim to answer privacy concerns by storing just certain measurements of a person’s fingerprint, rather than the entire fingerprint itself The company that makes the equipment pitches benefits to consumers of faster checkout and higher security, but enough questions have been raised about fingerprint scanners — even beating them with Play-Doh that the security claims deserve closer scrutiny. The transaction speed is really more of a benefit for retailers, anyway, alongside the lower transaction-processing fees they can pay by getting people to use their checking accounts instead of credit or debit cards. The analyst report says a 20% cut in Wal-Mart’s payment-processing costs could translate to a 3-4% increase in earnings per share within three years — if biometric payment systems can deliver those kinds of results, expect to see them sooner rather than later, privacy concerns or no.

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Comments on “Pull My Finger… For Payment”

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giafly says:

Not everyone has clear fingerprints

I don’t think there’s a privacy issue, so long as this system is optional, WalMart get fully informed consent, and all data is destroyed when customers decide to leave the scheme.

But there are techical problems. Here’s a recent quote about a similar technology. “People with faint fingerprints would also be unable to register on the system, as would manual labourers, particularly those who work with cement or shuffle paper regularly” – BBC

Mr. Oberon says:

I'm sick of 'check out yourself' stores

I, for one, absolutely refuse to use the ‘self-checkout’ stands at any store because there is no tangible benefit to me; the only tangible benefit is to the store — and a negative tangible benefit to the workers who are displaced by the company putting the labor burden on the customer.
If I’m going to be peforming labor for the company, then I should be paid for it — or at the very least, I should get a discount on all the products I’m purchasing.
Whatever happened to the idea that a company should provide service to their customers? In the US, this has gradually dwindled to the point that now the customers are paying to provide service to the company.

can type a little says:

Re: I'm sick of 'check out yourself' stores

I agree completely. Very well worded.

I hate self checkout as well; and for the same reasons. I’ve heard stories about people having problems with it and having to get someone to help clear the machine and recheck the groceries. To hell with that nonsense. What a joke. I think they should pay an employee a decent wage to sell me their merchandise and bag it for me and count out my change when it’s over.

ex-cashier says:

Re: Re: I'm sick of 'check out yourself' stores

Ive worked as a cashier for years and refuse to use self checkout.
Now why would anyone want their personal bank info tied their fingerprint? What happens when someone hacks that database? Or like someone else said the government wants the records ?
I sure dont trust Wal-mart with my fingerprint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm sick of 'check out yourself' stores

I dont want their damn service. I prefer helping myself. I dont want people opening doors for me or bringing me refills or checking me out at the store. Why can’t I do it all myself?

Forget the discounts, i would gladly pay MORE for a self checkout line. Call it the pay 10% more line. I could get in and out in record time with that.

Just Me says:

Not gonna be touching no sticky, slobbery, grossy

Let’s face it. Kids are full of germs. They touch stuff on the ground, they don’t properly wash after using the facilities, and they pick at various orafices all day long. Then they touch mommy and daddy. Then they use the new finger scanner.

I’ll stick with my AmEx swipe card (whenever anyone starts using the readers) thank you very much.

Mikester says:

Gov't dream

What happens when the government subpoenas WalMart’s fingerprint database because they are searching for a criminal and the fingerprint they have doesn’t show up in any of their own database searches?
Congratulations, your fingerprint is now in a government database and you better hope you don’t ever leave your print any where near any future crime scene.

Muffin says:

Re: Gov't dream

As I’m not a criminal and see zero need to protect or sheild them, this would be an added benefit. Besides they probably would pay by cash that they lifetd from someone else.

Reply to:
What happens when the government subpoenas WalMart’s fingerprint database because they are searching for a criminal and the fingerprint they have doesn’t show up in any of their own database searches?
Congratulations, your fingerprint is now in a government database and you better hope you don’t ever leave your print any where near any future crime scene.

itchyfish says:

Re: Gov't dream

Ummmm, (most likely) wrong. Biometrics systems these days don’t store your actual print. Actual images aren’t usually stored because of large storage requirements for images and difficulty with matching images. They take certain measurements such as distance between features such as whorls, etc. and that’s what is stored. And there are a number of actual algorithms to do this. I suppose your measurements could be sucked up into the gov’t database, but the actual usefulness to gov’t in tracking you is small.

Is it a good idea to give Wal-Mart your biometric and banking information? Probably not, but that’s more about Wal-Mart’s security measures than wild claims about having your fingerprint being available to the gov’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Gov't dream

the government could always run the fingerprint that they have through the biometric system to see if it matches anybody in there. who knows, since its a lifted fingerprint, it could be less reliable and you may get questioned as a possible suspect cause you have similar fingerprints.

itchyfish says:

Re: Re: Re: Gov't dream

Yes they could, then they’d activate the RFID module they implanted into your neck at birth, call up the super-spy satellite to zoom in on your location and read the mail you currently have open in your hands.

Seriously, mention “biometrics” and conspiracy theorists come crawling out of the woodwork with wild stories without knowing one thing about the actual technology. Sure, theoretically the gov’t *could* apply the algorithm to a fingerprint they have and then go searching. Is it likely? Not even a little. They have more efficiant ways of catching people.

Mikester says:

Re: Re: Gov't dream

Regardless of the actual method of storing your fingerprint (image, measurement, etc), does it really matter? As long as the government can use the same identification process that WalMart uses to connect a fingerprint back to you, the end result is the same.

Again, I’m not concerned about being tracked, I know that already happens with every non-cash purchase. I just don’t like the idea of a government having access to a database that could further their ‘big brother’ goals. Don’t think the govenment lusts for this? Why else have they requested the search engines turn over their? Oh yeah, national security. Anything can be done in the name of security.

Let me put it this way, why are we bothering with fingerprinting? Why not go straight to DNA? “That’ll be 23.56 please, sir. Please spit here.” Why not get WalMart customers to sign up for a DNA database – I think it would be far more reliable than fingerprint security.
No? Why not? (rhetorical question)

/Donning tin foil hat (and finger tips)
//Off to patent DNA payment process

Criminalist says:

Re: Re: Re: Gov't dream

“Let me put it this way, why are we bothering with fingerprinting? Why not go straight to DNA? “That’ll be 23.56 please, sir. Please spit here.” Why not get WalMart customers to sign up for a DNA database – I think it would be far more reliable than fingerprint security.
No? Why not? (rhetorical question)”

Well, let’s see, a properly performed DNA test can run upwards of $10,000? That’s probably why the big name stores aren’t jumping all over themselves to let you use your DNA to buy a $3 birthday card.

Peeve says:

Re: Gov't dream

I get a kick out of reading these type of posts, which are prime demonstrations of how ignorance breeds false insight…which then breeds false confidence. Then the confident ignoranus (sic) feels enlightened and posts their stupidity where all can see.

Ironically “Mikester” your privacy concerns have “exposed” or ID’d yourself as one of these people who believes that his perceptions are truth. Real Eyes see Real Lies, then Realize.

Avoidable? (Hint: it lies within the research capabilities of the Net)

Truth is: Biometric fingerprints CANNOT be reproduced. That’s why they’re technically called “fingerscans” and not fingerprints (that’s the media)

Why? Because there are over 1000 data points that can be measured on a finger. Pay by Touch identifies (scans) around 40. So without the remaining 960 data points, it would be literally impossible to recreate a finger print. So the government can ask but won’t be able to tell.

Mikester…I gotta ask…can “you tell” us some more of your insights on how the world works?

Tell us the one about how a blank piece of paper imprinted with your name, address, routing and bank account numbers… handed out a thousand times to strangers like a business card is safer and non-invasive. Just checking Mikey.

Now, I apologize if I’ve come down a little hard on the Mikester, but my “perception” is that if you want respect, earn it, do a little R&D.

haggie says:

No Subject Given

I’ve got a new group for my ever-expanding list of retail consumer idiots.

a.) People that use self checkout. If I have to bust my ass, I want the savings, not the business. I choose not to shop at stores where checkers are surly or rude, so I don’t have that negative experience. At Home Depot, the friendly checkers have given me so many deals and specials, I would be an idiot to self-check.

b.) People that have those grocery store tags on their keychains and actually gave the grocery store their personal info.

c.) People that think “mail in” rebates are actually a cost savings (but never submit the paperwork) and thereby encourage retailers/manufacturers to keep up this scam.

d.) People that get voluntarily fingerprinted (for any reason), but specifically people that get fingerprinted so Wal-mart can make more money.

Cooter says:

fingerprints? I'm ready for RFID

I’d love to walk into a store, with my own messenger bag, grab the latest DVDs, a frozen pizza, and a six pack of beer, and toss it in my bag. I don’t stop to get checked out, or pay anyone, because I’m carrying my Wal-Mart RFID card. when I walk out, the Wal-Mart DB connects to my bank’s DB, and debits my account. When I get home, I’ve got an email stating (depending on my prefs) what was purchased, and how much I was spent. – – Sign me up.
– I dobut that this type of thing would lead to identity theft because of the lack of personal info, and if my bank is hacked, they are, by law required to pay me back.

Sameha (user link) says:

Biometrics for payment is a great solution

I think such concept is definitely a very positive step. Biometric devices are making transnational communication much easier, safer and more reliable. Customer service is becoming more efficient through it. Tracking clients is getting faster. For proper customer service and payment facilities one need to ensure smooth management of keeping the customer records. I am a representative of an established research based biometric firm named M2SYS Technology http://www.m2sys.com based in Atlanta Georgia. We have provided our fingerprint scanners to numerous POS and shopping centers starting from medium to large across various countries, who are now making a very fast and reliable customer payment and customer record service through integrating our secured fingerprint identification system in their POS software. Our’s is a patent-pending fingerprint software solution that can be instantly integrated with a host application, avoiding development burdens associated with a fingerprint SDK. We also offer several off-the-shelf fingerprints software products that are distributed to the end user market through our expanding list of channel partners. I believe to keep up with speed of service and tracking the customers as well as employees in an efficient way, finger print scanners are one of the best solutions.

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