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Amazon And ALPR

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A drive-through for your groceries: According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, that’s one of Amazon’s many ambitions for the next version of its grocery-delivery service, Fresh. The company will set up a series of “convenience stores,” the Journal reports, where it will sell basic goods like milk, produce, and meat.

Some locations will also allow people to pick up orders they placed online. Here’s how the Journal described that feature:

For customers seeking a quicker checkout, Amazon will soon begin rolling out designated drive-in locations where online grocery orders will be brought to the car, the people said. The company is developing license-plate reading technology to speed wait times.

That detail about the license-plate readers caught my attention. Scanning the license plates of incoming cars makes sense: If your plate is connected to your Amazon account, the system could alert employees working in the store that you’ve arrived to pick up your grocery order before you even have a chance to park. If someone met you at the curb with your order in hand, you could be in and out of the lot in less than a minute.

But that’s not the only reason implementing a license-plate system would be a smart move for Amazon. If the company can convince you to tell it which car is yours, it could link your license plate number to your Amazon account. Then, if it bought data from another company that shows where else your car has traveled, it could potentially use that information to develop an even more complete picture of your habits, preferences, and personality.

Automated license-plate readers are primarily used for policing—but they’re also useful to a range of private companies, as I reported earlier this year. Insurance and repossession companies, for example, buy license-plate data from clearinghouses and use it to find cars whose owners have stopped making loan payments, or cars whose owners don’t have auto insurance.

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