Cashless shopping in the supermarket: privacy activists are concerned

Shopping without a cash register is now possible in Germany. A few days ago – in Cologne – the first supermarket using the new technology was opened. But privacy advocates are skeptical.

Every movement of the customer is recorded

In order to make cash-free shopping possible, a customer’s every move must be accurately recorded – for example, when a customer puts a can of jam directly into their pocket. The question is how does this happen and what is stored. Because sensors and cameras can be used to create an accurate profile of a customer’s shopping behaviour. Facial recognition is also used in Chinese experimental projects.

Privacy advocates tackle cashless shopping

This is inconsistent with our understanding of privacy protection, said Thomas Fuchs, Hamburg’s data protection officer, of the Food newspaper. Accordingly, the Data Protection Conference, the Exchange Commission for Regulators, is also currently dealing with the issue.

If it is clear to the consumer what data will be recorded by him and he explicitly agrees to this, then from the point of view of data protection experts, nothing stands in the way of cashier-free shopping.

In the store in Cologne, where this is possible for the first time in this country, customers must, according to operator Rewe, check an app before making a purchase and agree to register. But there is no facial recognition. It is also said that the system cannot recognize the customer the next time they shop.

Model for Aldi and Tesco: Amazon Fresh

In London, Aldi is testing cashless payments at an unnamed supermarket. The role model is Amazon’s online retailer. One is always trying to redefine what it means to be an opponent, and the technology used in this test will give them a wealth of ideas, says Aldi’s head of UK and Ireland, Giles Hurley. The employees of the German retail group are currently testing the technology, and in another step customers are also testing it, as it is called. British rival Tesco is already testing cashless stores by employees at its headquarters and is also relying on Amazon technology.

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In March, the online retailer opened a store without a cash register in London for the first time in Europe under the name Amazon Fresh. In the United States, the online retail giant now has more than two dozen good such stores, called Amazon Go, there.

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