Via America’s Lawyer: Amazon has been quietly collecting biometric data from its employees using thermal cameras and facial recognition software – all in the name of its COVID-19 health checks. The practice has prompted a class-action lawsuit, and now a U.S. district judge has ruled the tech giant can’t run from the allegations. Mike Papantonio & Farron Cousins discuss more.
*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.
Mike Papantonio: Amazon has been quietly collecting biometric data from its employees using facial recognition software and its COVID-19 health screenings is where they’re getting that material. The practice has prompted a class action lawsuit. Now, a US district judge has ruled the tech giant can’t run from those allegations. Farron Cousins joins me to talk about that. Farron, listen, as you look at this story, you, it seems like every, at least once a month, we’re doing a story about the ugliest edges of Amazon and I, at first I thought, well, maybe it’s just hitting all at one time. Maybe all this crazy stuff that Amazon’s doing, maybe it’s just, we’re gotta move through it. That’s not the case, is it?
Farron Cousins: No, absolutely not. And, and this one is particularly disgusting because they put these safety measures in place saying, look, employees, we’re gonna protect you from COVID. We’re gonna make sure nobody comes in here with an infection. So go put your face up to the machine. We’re gonna scan you. It’s gonna take your temperature. You’re gonna be totally fine. And so the workers said, okay, yes, that sounds great. You’re protecting us. But then they find out, oh, Amazon’s not just testing your temperature, they’re selling your facial data, your biometrics to third parties. And this is something and this class action’s being filed in Illinois, which is one of the strictest.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah.
Farron Cousins: Biometric laws in the country. It’s wonderful.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. And there’s about, there’s about 10 other states that this could be filed. This, this is, this is an important decision right here to be able to say, yeah, we’ve got enough to go forward. What a corporation always tries to do is they try to cut it off at a motion to dismiss because motion to dismiss, if the judge agrees, slows down discovery, you can’t take depositions. There is no discovery. But if you get past this, you’re able to sit them down in a room and beat the hell out of them in a deposition and get to the bottom of it. Amazon’s got a problem here.
Farron Cousins: Yeah. And, and what’s most likely going to happen is that they’re probably gonna end up settling. Facebook got popped for the same thing in Illinois, $650 million settlement Facebook had to pay out for essentially doing the same thing. And the really disturbing part about this Amazon story is okay, they’re taking their employees biometric data, but they’re also implementing other biometric policies. They’re trying to do facial recognition for all of their drivers. And they’re saying, listen, this will make sure that no unauthorized person gets in the car. Nope. We know now you want to sell it. They’re doing it at Whole Foods. They wanna make it to where you just scan your palm print to check out so you don’t have to use cash.
Mike Papantonio: Yeah. And, and, and the biometric thing right now ties a lot into health information. We’re seeing, we’re seeing the Chinese just do everything they can to get as much health information on American citizens as they possibly can. There’s a reason for that. They, they, they can sell it. They can use it to devise their own programs. So this whole thing about being able to manage biometrics is, is critical and finally, we have a federal judge who says, says, yes, it is critical and we need to stop it. And in Illinois, that’s the place to fight it out.
Farron Cousins: It absolutely is. And hopefully, you know, I, I’m confident these workers should be able to prevail. I mean, you know, this seems like a pretty cut and dry case. And again, Illinois, super friendly because of their very strict laws.
Mike Papantonio: And, and if it doesn’t work there, like I say, there’s seven, eight other states that the same thing could happen.