One day after the President of the United States proclaimed the new holiday of state “Loyalty Day,” a conglomerate has made an announcement about its ability to track the faces and movements of its millions of IRL customers.
Live Nation, the parent company of Ticketmaster, announced on its Q1 investor call that it would be introducing facial recognition technology into its venues.
We will continue investing in new technologies to further differentiate Ticketmaster from others in the ticketing business. It is very notable that today we announce our partnership with, and investment in, Blink Identity which has cutting-edge facial recognition technology, enabling you to associate your digital ticket with your image, then just walk into the show
With this facial recognition technology, event-goers would not need to scan a digital or paper ticket. They would just walk into the venue. And according to Blink Identity’s website, that doesn’t mean just scanning your face instead of a ticket. Attendees can just walk through venue gates, “at full walking speed, without having to slow down or look at the camera.”
Blink Identity writes that it it then acquires “a face image and match[es] it against a large database in half a second (a blink!)”
It’s easy to see how this would add speed and convenience to events. But recent news out of China, and Blink Identity’s own website, raise some concerns about how this technology could be used for much more than just ticket replacement.
The Chinese government has been deploying facial recognition technology at music venues and subway platforms in order to catch criminal suspects. In April, Chinese police apprehended a suspect accused of “financial crimes” amongst a concert crowd of 60,000.
Tying Live Nation’s newly acquired facial recognition software to police monitoring is not unimaginable, either. Blink Identity’s website describes its product as something that “Let[s] the good guys in (and keep[s] the bad guys out) when you know who they are.” Indeed, the technology was developed in the Middle East for the Department of Defense. It is just now being introduced to the commercial market — meaning its original use was for the state.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation says that the use of facial recognition software is becoming increasingly common, especially by law enforcement. It poses risks to privacy and could cause arrests made in error due to still-developing technology.
“Face recognition data is easy for law enforcement to collect and hard for members of the public to avoid,” the EFF writes.
In particular, the EFF says that facial recognition technology is not as precise at differentiating individuals with darker skin tones, which could lead to a disproportionate arrest of minorities. It also provides the ability to track individuals, since facial recognition databases are built without the knowledge or consent of the people it captures on camera. The EFF is also particularly concerned that “face recognition can be used to target people engaging in protected speech.”
The database of biometric data is growing thanks to advancements in consumer technology, too. Apple added the ability, called “Face ID,” to unlock the iPhone with a face scan on its iPhone X model. And Facebook has been using facial recognition to help tag photos for a while — it made the feature easier to turn off in December 2017, amidst growing backlash to how Facebook was being used as a tool by the Russian government to influence US elections.
In a world where ICE deportations and Muslim bans are the reality, the proliferation of facial recognition technology at the places people just go to have fun and let their guards down might not be cause for celebration. Mashable has reached out to Live Nation to ask whether it would comply with requests from law enforcement to use the software, and will update this when and if we hear back.