Concertgoers were frustrated to hear that Live Nation and AEG were considering the use of facial recognition at concerts and festivals, but now, the promoters have taken a step back.
Both live-entertainment giants disavowed any plans to use facial recognition at music festivals, and now, the musicians are declaring victory. Earlier this month, AEG’s chief operating officer for festivals, Melissa Ormond, emailed activists and said that “AEG festivals do not use facial recognition technology and do not have any plans to implement.” Additionally, Live Nation said in a statement that they “do not currently have plans to deploy facial recognition at our clients’ venues.”
While Live Nation’s Ticketmaster has not made any major moves in the facial recognition space, it announced an investment in a facial recognition company called Blink Identity last year. This new technology could reportedly “acquire a face image and match it against a large database in half a second.” Following the announcement, a handful of artists – including Tom Morello, The Glitch Mob, Speedy Ortiz, and Atmosphere – said they would support a campaign urging Ticketmaster to ban facial recognition software at concerts and other live events.
Additionally, the digital rights advocacy group Fight For The Future recently launched its Ban Facial Recognition campaign to fight the use of the technology, calling it “unreliable, biased, and a threat to basic rights and safety.” The campaign issued a “festival report card” which shows that organizers of Bonnaroo, Pitchfork, Governors Ball, and Electric Forest are among those who vowed not to use facial recognition.
The idea of facial recognition technology isn’t new; The New York Times first reported the use of facial recognition technology at New York City’s Madison Square Garden last year, which is reportedly used for safety purposes. Additionally, some parts of Europe have been using either facial or voice recognition to keep tabs on unruly fans, Billboard notes, and in China, facial recognition has been used to arrest criminals at shows.
However, the technology really began to cause an uproar after Rolling Stone reported that popstar Taylor Swift had used the technology at her Los Angeles show on the Reputation Tour in 2018. She reportedly used the technology at the Rose Bowl with a hidden kiosk that held a hidden camera and took photographs of fans without their knowledge. The technology was used to detect her various stalkers, but this sparked many privacy concerns. People began to question: where does this information go?
While facial recognition has been halted at music festivals for the time being, it’s likely that this technology will be implemented at some point in the future as the country moves in a more digital direction.