After major uproar, the management of Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado has apparently backed off of plans to install Amazon One biometric scanning devices at the famed venue. From the moment they were announced in the fall of 2021, consumer privacy advocates had pushed back hard against the devices, which allow for user biometric data to be stored and accessed for event entry using a scan of one’s palm print.
According to Fight for the Future, a Communications Director at Denver Arts and Venues, which manages Red Rocks, confirmed that plans to use the palm scanning system are no longer in the works. That employee told the organization that “we haven’t been in touch with Amazon in several months and this isn’t a planned activation at Red Rocks. I’m not sure what the future of this technology is, but at this point it doesn’t involve our venues.”
The group, which had been involved in the initial resistance to the Amazon One biometric rollout, is pushing for AXS and AEG Worldwide to halt all plans for the use of biometric devices of all kinds at its venues and events.
“Red Rocks’ decision to abandon Amazon palm scanning puts the venue on the right side of history, as a defender of human rights and the privacy of music fans. Other venues should similarly listen to the hundreds of artists, organizations, and fans who don’t see this technology as “convenient” but recognize it as a tool of corporate surveillance and super-charged state violence,” said Leila Nashashibi, a campaigner at Fight for the Future, “As we speak, AXS is trying to bring palm scanning to a number of new venues – including Mission Ballroom in Denver – making our fight to keep events free of biometric data collection as urgent as ever.”
Biometric data collection by live events organizations has been controversial at any point it has been discussed, with massive companies like Live Nation Entertainment and AEG Worldwide looking at such systems as a new frontier for user data profiling and restrictive ticketing systems. While they characterize the compiling of such private data as able to unlock quicker and safer venue access, privacy advocates point out that such data brings with it identity theft risks, and the possibility of these massive corporations sharing or even selling biometric data of its user base.
Both Live Nation and AXS issued promises that they would not use facial recognition systems at festivals in reaction to a coordinated campaign pushing back against facial recognition tech in 2019, but a number of other biometric systems have been launched at some stadiums, including Citi Field, where the New York Mets plan to have facial scanning in place at every entry for the 2022 season.
“I don’t want anyone coming to one of my concerts to have to worry that they’ll be subjected to invasive surveillance, or coerced into handing over their sensitive biometric information to a corporation,” said Evan Greer (she/her), the director of Fight for the Future and a musician who recently released an album titled Spotify is Surveillance, “Music festivals and many concert venues are already unsafe, exclusive, and inaccessible for many marginalized folks, including trans and nonbinary people. Introducing biometric surveillance technology at events, even just for the marginal-at-best ‘convenience’ of making the line move faster, makes music fans less safe.”