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Chaayos tests facial recognition at its outlets raising privacy concerns

Chaayos says that its customers can opt-out from facial recognition test at its outlets but the company's approach is raising concerns among consumers.

  • Published: November 22, 2019 11:26 AM IST
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Photo: Chaayos/Twitter


Facial recognition is becoming a popular method of biometric authentication but it comes with privacy concerns. Around the world, facial recognition is being used for surveillance as well. As a result, the tech is being used sparingly and raises concerns almost immediately. It seems that tech startups want to use facial recognition to authenticate their customers. Chaayos, a popular food-tech startup, is reportedly asking customers to check-in using facial recognition. It seems the company is stepping up from using phone numbers to authenticate users.

Chaayos already asks its customers for their mobile numbers whenever they are making a payment. The phone number is later tied to a loyalty program. It seems the company will now use facial recognition to authenticate its customers. Medianama spotted the company testing facial recognition at one of its Delhi outlets. The outlet reportedly had a tablet device requesting users to check-in by standing in front of the camera. The facial data is being used for verification instead of current system where OTP is sent to users.

Currently, Chaayos asks its customers to verify themselves using their phone number before placing an order. The verification then generates an OTP as a method to authenticate users. Now, this phone-based authentication could be replaced by facial recognition where the system recognizes you and then confirms your order. The report notes that Chaayos customers do not have an opt-out option and they have to go through the process before ordering. “Customer should not expect, that Customer’s personal information should always remain private,” the company says in its terms and conditions.

While surveillance using facial recognition is not a new phenomena, Chaayos’ terms and conditions raise a lot of red flags. Nikhil Pahwa, Medianama editor notes that there is also no clarity on how Chaayos processes the facial recognition data. “Since inception, Sunshine Teahouse Pvt Ltd (“Chaayos”) has strived to leverage technology to deliver great customer experience. Towards this endeavour, we have recently launched a facial recognition feature at our Point of Sale as an option to eliminate the hassles of OTPs and reduce the overall customer purchase time. The feature is currently in the beta phase at select cafes and will be officially rolled out post thorough testing,” the company said in a statement.

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“At Chaayos, we are extremely conscious about our customer’s data security and privacy and are committed to protecting it. Data from the facial recognition feature is encrypted and cannot be accessed by any party, including Chaayos itself except for the purpose of logging-in to our customers. We also provide our customers with a permanent “Opt-out” feature on our website, where-in they can choose to permanently delete their pictures captured by our systems at any point in time,” the company added.

  • Published Date: November 22, 2019 11:26 AM IST