The New York Mets are expanding their use of facial recognition technology for those entering their ballpark in 2022. After piloting the Wicket “facial authentication” platform on a limited basis, the team is expanding its use to all entry gates at Citi Field for the coming season. The announcement indicates that the partnership will “focus on deploying a series of facial authentication applications at the ballpark, beginning with facial ticketing and facial access control for staff and vendors.”
Launched in August of 2021, the facial recognition program is tagged as the “Mets Entry Express” program, and is a voluntary system for fans who wish to opt-in. It allows for the scanning of one’s face in the dedicated stadium entry lane, which clears the fan for entry without the need for a paper or mobile ticket.
“Wicket is a primary example of the commitment from our owner Steve Cohen to significantly invest in the most cutting-edge and advanced technology that provides our fans an even better experience at Citi Field,” said Mets Chief Technology Officer, Mark Brubaker. “We’re proud to partner with Wicket following a very rigorous pilot that showed them to be far ahead of the competition.”
“We are thrilled that the Mets chose Wicket as their facial authentication partner. Mets fans who opt into the program will realize the benefits of shorter lines, beginning with ticketing as they enter Citi Field. We are excited to have a forward-thinking partner such as the Mets, who are re-thinking how technology can provide a better experience for fans visiting today’s ballparks.” said Sanjay Manandhar, CEO of Wicket.
The deployment of facial recognition technology has been extraordinarily controversial, and generally receives substantial pushback from privacy advocates. It has seen limited usage in ticketing to date, but some companies have at least considered such tech for future use. AXS recently announced it was adding a biometric palm scanning technology developed by Amazon to Red Rocks in Colorado – spurring more than 200 artists and privacy advocates to pen an open letter to AEG, AXS and Red Rocks to immediately stop the use of the system, for fear it could spiral out of control when such data becomes readily available.
“For many of us, concerts and live events are some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of our lives,” it read, in part. “The spread of biometric surveillance tools like palm scans and facial recognition now threatens to destroy that, transforming these spaces into hotspots for ICE raids, false arrests, police harassment, and stolen identities.”
Back in 2019, activists made a similar push after it became known that companies like Live Nation Entertainment were considering facial recognition systems (and Ticketmaster actually invested in a company that works in that space). In that instance, at least, Live Nation Entertainment and AEG promised they were not planning on deploying such systems. AEG said “AEG Festivals do not use facial recognition technology and do note have any plans to implement, with Live Nation responding that they “do not currently have plans to deploy facial recognition at our clients’ venues.”
For its part, Wicket promises the utmost of security in its deployment of consumer facial recognition data. “Wicket is committed to data privacy,” it says in the Mets partnership release. “All of Wicket’s products are 100% opt-in. Data is always encrypted, de-identified, and data is never shared with a third party.”