Chaayos is reportedly collecting customer facial data at some outlets, claims that customers can opt out

There are no terms and conditions on display, there is no opt-out option, there is no clarity on how Chaayos processes this data,

Update: Chaayos has issued a statement on the issue. This report has been updated with the response.

Facial recognition is a form of biometric authentication that is still used sparingly. One of the major arguments for that is privacy concerns. But it looks like a food-tech startup wants to make it more mainstream at its outlets.

Chaayos, a food-tech startup, is notorious for asking customers their phone numbers whenever one is about to make a payment. The reason given is that your phone number is tied in to a loyalty program. Some people find value in that and have no qualms about sharing their numbers. Now it looks like Chaayos wants to simplify the payment process, so instead of OTPs, it is asking customers to check-in using facial recognition.

At one of its Delhi outlets, Medianama spotted a payment counter which had a tablet requesting you to check-in by standing in front of the tablet's camera. This was being done for verification instead of its old OTP generation system.

Chaayos presently has a procedure whereby a customer has to verify his/her phone number before placing an order. This verification is done by generating an OTP on the customer's phone. Now it seems you will have to scan your face so that the system recognises that it is you and then you can place your order.

Image: Chaayos/Twitter

Image: Chaayos/Twitter

There are a couple of things that are of concern here.

Firstly, customers reportedly do not have an opt-out option and they are bound to go through the process before ordering. Another thing is the terms and conditions of this process reportedly mentions that "Customer should not expect that customer's personal information should always remain private." Really Chaayos?

In China, using facial recognition to place your orders is quite a common thing. But it isn't a country where data privacy is the most respected. People are aware of what they are getting into there. Chaayos, it seems, is making no effort to come out clean regarding this procedure.

According to Medianama editor Nikhil Pahwa, there are no terms and conditions on display, there is no opt-out option, there is no clarity on how Chaayos processes this data, there is no clarity on which other data points are being linked to your facial data and much more.

People took this issue to Twitter to express their concern on the issue.

Chaayos has issued a statement on the issue. Here it is in full:

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.

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. There is no third party sharing of the data for any purpose. And Chaayos does not use or process this information for any other purpose. Moreover, customers have the right to not opt-in for facial recognition feature and instead use their phone number to enjoy the benefits of our loyalty program. Even providing phone number is not mandatory to enjoy a cup of chai or other products at Chaayos.

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. Our café staff is also well trained to help customers register or opt-out of the feature.

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