Not content to own all the data about the public’s concert and sporting preferences as well as whatever can be scraped from user social media by opt-ins to its Verified Fan system, Live Nation Entertainment is reportedly going to start compiling data on users’ faces. As part of last week’s call regarding its Q1 earnings report, the Ticketmaster parent announced it is investing in a facial recognition company called Blink Identity.
“We will continue investing in new technologies to further differentiate Ticketmaster from others in the ticketing business,” the earnings report says. “It is very notable that today we announce our partnership with, and investment in, Blink Identity, which has cutting-edge facial recognition technology, enabling you to associate your digital ticket with your image, then just walk into the show.”
From a user standpoint, this means that, in theory, an event using this tech could stroll right up to the gate and have their face scanned and granted access without them even having to break stride. A story by Venturebeat.com relays that Blink claims it can capture people walking past a sensor at full speed at a rate of 60 per minute. It could also be used as a passport for in-venue purchases and VIP access, provided a user has tied a credit card to their Ticketmaster profile.
In reality, security concerns would likely keep that hypothetical from ever happening, since even when even the most up-to-date systems don’t break down and cause major wait times at events, the need for security screenings form a nigh-unavoidable bottleneck at massive crowd gatherings. And then there’s the personal privacy concerns.
From technology blog Gizmodo, which headlined its story on the matter “America’s Shittiest Ticket Company Wants to Collect Your Face Data“:
Blink Identity’s website boasts that its system can “acquire a face image and match it against a large database in half a second.” That’s impressive. Sounds like that killer tech that China has that can pick the face of a suspect out of a crowd of 50,000 people. Good to know our public spaces are getting wired up with the same stuff. Oh, another fun thing: Blink Identity’s founders have spent over a decade designing systems for the Department of Defense. Rock on!
On Engadget, the danger of such a system being hacked is laid out in fairly broad strokes. “If hackers breach the company’s system, then they could get away with its customers’ face and details,” writes Mariella Moon. That could “maybe even [include] the payment method they used to purchase tickets.”
The comments there show a serious lack of enthusiasm for the tech by its readers, as well.
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“If they do this I’m never going to a concert again,” wrote Alexander. Another mused that it was likely just another path for additional fees to be passed on to the consumer and attempt to lock out the right of resale by Ticketmaster and its clients. “Ticketmaster. Let me guess: Face Scan Fee: $15/ticket,” ZaggieSF wrote. “I assume that there will also be a transfer fee to change the face assigned to a ticket. What value does this add a.) for the concert-goer b.) for the artist? This is simply a way for Ticketmaster to get a larger piece of the secondary market by locking people to tickets.”
Another major concern is the fact that facial recognition technology is currently very failure-prone for people with dark skin color, which The Technews writes could lead to instances where “minorities might get harassed or arrested for no reason when they try to enter the venue,” even if they have perfectly valid and legally purchased tickets.
With news that former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard has launched a new company – Rival – which plans on being a leader in the same facial recognition space – its clear that the major rights-holders and vendors in ticketing are making a strong push at this tech, whether or not the public has any desire for it. Time will tell if the system will properly get off the ground, or if initial resistance at the mere thought of Live Nation adding your face to their portfolio of things they control will prove too difficult for even them to overcome.