A class-action lawsuit filed last month alleges that Wal-Mart’s video recording technology at its self-service checkout kiosks collects “personal identification information” in violation of the California Song-Beverly Act Credit Card Act of 1971 (“Song-Beverly Act”). The Song-Beverly Act, like analogous statutes in several other states, generally prohibits businesses from recording customers’ “personal identification information” as a condition of accepting a credit card payment.
The Complaint alleges that video recordings of a person’s eye color, hair color, and facial features constitute “personal identification information” under the Song-Beverly Act, and that clearer recordings of these features require different treatment than those made using ordinary security cameras. The Complaint further alleges that because this information allegedly is captured “throughout the entire duration of the customer’s credit card transaction,” the recording violates the statute. The Complaint characterizes the recordings as “valuable biometric data” that allegedly is collected for Wal-Mart’s “prospective business purposes, including but not limited to targeted marketing campaigns.”
Wal-Mart has removed the lawsuit to federal district court. It remains to be seen whether these novel allegations prove accurate or gain traction under the Song-Beverly Act, which to this point has not been applied to video recording technologies like those used at self-checkout kiosks.