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Supermarket chain uses fingerprinting { March 4 2004 }

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Grocery store goes to fingerprint payments
Piggly Wiggly debuts feature, privacy expert slams new technology

Posted: March 4, 2004
1:00 a.m. Eastern


The Piggly Wiggly grocery chain has announced it will begin offering a high-tech payment feature allowing customers in several stores to pay using their fingerprints.

With a touch of the finger to a light-sensitive pad, patrons will be able to pay for their groceries, provided they have an account in the store's system that can be debited, reported the Columbia, S.C., State.

The paper says stores in Columbia and Charleston are set to install the technology.

According to Pay By Touch, the San Francisco-based firm whose product is being used, the system takes 10 seconds to OK a payment by fingerprint.

Customer Karen Seymore is open to using the technology, the State reports.

"Not that it takes a lot of time to scan a debit card, but the finger scan would be more convenient," said Seymore, 32. "I'd just want to make sure the information is secure and couldn't get out to someone wanting to do damage."

Pay By Touch claims customers' personal information is stored in a secure database and cannot be accessed by unauthorized parties. The company says other stores that have utilized the technology find three-fourths of their customers sign up to use the fingerprint system.

Many privacy activists, however, oppose fingerprint payment technology. Katherine Albrecht is founder and director of Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering.

"We're extremely opposed to it," she told WND. "Of all forms of security, fingerprints are perhaps the least secure."

Albrecht explained research that has been done to show how a mold of a fingerprint can be made that then can easily be used to make a gelatin print. The fake print can be fit over someone's finger to be used fraudulently in a scanner.

"Why would you pick something [for security purposes] that you leave everywhere?" she asked, referring to fingerprints.

Albrecht also says fingerprinting is one small step away from embedded chips being used for payment. She says her organization is opposed to any sort of technology that can be used to track shoppers.

"When you eliminate cash, you eliminate anonymity," she explained, saying any kind of technology that tracks purchases can be used by governments to control food supplies.

According to Albrecht, an independently owned Thriftway store in Seattle was the first to use fingerprint payment technology about a year ago. Kroger then followed suit.

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