Legal News — McDonalds Sued for Improper Use of AI Biometric Data in Drive-Thru

By | June 17, 2021

Reported in Retail Automation June 2021

McDonalds AI Drive-Thru Ordering Violates Privacy Laws in Illinois and now headed to Court

From EatThisNotThat Jun2021 –

Editors Note:  You could see this coming given the test being run in Illinois which has some of the strictest privacy laws.

In Brief:

  • McDonalds testing AI-powered drive-thru ordering at 10 restaurants in Illinois
  • Voice Analysis and Recognition being used
  • Data retention — McDonalds is not informing customers how long their data will be retained
  • Machine Learning – personalization via license plate match to customer, past orders, past locations
  • No comment from McDonalds yet…


And while the reality of AI drive-thrus is still far in the future, one customer is raising a red flag on the legality of such an operational setup. According to his recently filed lawsuit, McDonald’s doesn’t have permission to use voice-recognition software on customers without their prior approval. In doing so, the fast-food giant is in violation of the Illinois state law. He is suing the chain for using the technology to capture his voice data without permission at one of the Chicago-area test sites in 2020.

Using a voice-recognition system to identify repeat customers, which is exactly what McDonald’s plans to do with the technology, violates Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act. BIPA states that collecting biometric information such as voiceprints, fingerprints, facial scans, handprints, and palm scans requires consent from the parties in question. The voiceprints collected by the AI technology can identify customers’ pitch, volume, and other unique qualities. The law also requires McDonald’s to make its data retention policies public and clarify how long the information collected will be stored and how it will be used.

Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s connects the unique voice information to license plates to more easily recognize customers at any location they end up going to.

Updates to Article and Subject

Author: Staff Writer

Craig Keefner is the editor for Kiosk Industry (Self Service Kiosk Machine). Opinions and point of view here on kioskindustry is not necessarily the stance of the Kiosk Association or -- With over 40 years in the industry and experience in large and small kiosk solutions, Craig is widely considered to be an expert in the field. Major kiosk projects for him include Verizon Bill Pay kiosk and hundreds of others.