#privacy: Musicians turn up the volume on argument against facial recognition tech

facial recognition

Musicians have come out in support for a ban on facial recognition technology being used at music gigs and concerts.

Rock band, Speedy Ortiz, and former guitarist with Audioslave and Rage Against The Machine, Tom Morello, have teamed up with digital rights group, Fight for the Future, to stand against technology that could be used to undermine the freedoms of music lovers around the world.

“Alongside internet users everywhere we beat back attempts to limit our basic rights and freedoms, and empower people to demand technology (and policy) that serves their interests. Activating the internet for the public good can only lead to a more vibrant and awesome world,” the campaign group states on its website.

Also known for his political activism, Tom Morello recently posted on social media:

“I don’t want Big Brother at my shows targeting fans for harassment, deportation or arrest.”

Fight for the Future added:

“Music fans should feel safe and respected at festivals and shows, not subjected to invasive biometric surveillance.”

“Facial recognition is a uniquely dangerous form of surveillance. It enables ubiquitous monitoring of an entire crowd and could easily be used to target music fans for things like minor drug possession, immigration status, or having a warrant.”

The resistance follows an announcement made in May of last year by Ticketmaster’s umbrella company, Live Nation regarding new ticketing technology. The US-based events promotor said that it was joining Blink Identity, which uses technology to scan gig-goers’ faces as they enter music venues, to create a way of stopping fans from having to use standard tickets.

Live Nation cited convenience and cutting down on queuing times as the main reasons for using the new approach, but facial scanning of music crowds has been used in the past for other reasons; in 2018, recognition cameras were used at a Taylor Swift concert to pick out the star’s known stalkers in the crowd. In China recently, a man at a Jacky Cheung pop concert was spotted among the revellers and arrested for economic crimes.

News of the musicians’ stance arrives at a heated moment in the facial recognition technology debate in the UK, where the technology’s use at a development site at King’s Cross in London has prompted outcry.

Speaking on behalf of privacy campaign group, Big Brother Watch, Silkie Carlo described how secret surveillance being carried out “in the centre of London for years” was a “scandal”.

“We hope the ICO takes the most robust available action,” Carlo added.

Argent, the developer at the King’s Cross site, has said that it has “no plans to reintroduce any form” of facial-recognition surveillance at the King’s Cross site.


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