Last year the major concert industry began embracing facial recognition technology. Ticketmaster invested in a company called Blink Identity with the goal of one day letting ticketholders associate their face with their ticket and walk into concerts without scanning anything. Taylor Swift secretly used facial recognition tech at her Reputation Stadium Tour as a means of security, hoping to capture her many stalkers if they showed up at her concerts. But backlash against such technology is brewing.
Earlier this month, the nonprofit digital rights group Fight For The Future — whose mission statement includes, “We envision a world where everyone can access the internet affordably, free of interference or censorship and with full privacy” — launched a campaign lobbying the music industry to abandon use of facial recognition tech before it becomes more widespread. At banfacialrecognition.org, the group argues that facial recognition tech presents myriad ethical problems: It’s an invasion of privacy, its high rate of inaccuracy jeopardizes justice, it’s a gold mine for identity thieves, it could be weaponized by authoritarian regimes, etc. “The companies that run major festivals should not be experimenting on music fans by scanning our faces and collecting our biometric information,” Fight For The Future’s Deputy Director Evan Greer said in a press release. “People deserve to know whether their favorite event has plans to use facial recognition technology.”
Artists supporting Fight For The Future’s initiative include Tom Morello, Speedy Ortiz’s Sadie Dupuis, the Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon, Amanda Palmer, Downtown Boys, Laura Stevenson, Atmosphere, Anti-Flag, and others. Morello tweeted, “I don’t want Big Brother at my shows targeting fans for harassment, deportation, or arrest. That’s why I’m joining this campaign calling on @Ticketmaster and others not to use #facialrecognition at festivals and concerts.” Fight For The Future also announced that the Summer Meltdown Festival in Darrington, Washington became the first festival to commit to not using facial recognition tech.
Now Fight For The Future has shared an updated list of fests committing to forgo facial recognition tech. Among those fests that are not using facial recognition tech are Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Electric Forest, Shambhala, Paradiso Fest, Sonic Bloom, Summer Meltdown, Lucidity Festival, and Punk Rock Bowling. Meanwhile Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation have issued a statement that they currently have no plans to use the tech. Fests that did not respond to Fight For The Future’s inquiries include SXSW and Electric Daisy Carnival, which Coachella and parent company Goldenvoice stated, “We are not looking to add to this conversation currently.”
UPDATE: A representative for Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits clarifies that although the fests are not planning to use facial recognition technology, they have not offered any kind of pledge to Fight For The Future. Their official statement reads, “Bonnaroo does not utilize facial recognition technology, and does not currently have any plans to do so in the future. Austin City Limits Music Festival does not utilize facial recognition technology, and does not currently have any plans to do so in the future.”