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Campaigners put pressure on festivals to reject facial recognition technology

By | Published on Thursday 26 September 2019

Fight The Future

US campaign group Fight For The Future has published a list of the music festivals that have committed to not employ facial recognition technology for ticketing or security reasons at their events. Alongside that, the group has also named (and presumably shamed) the (mainly American) festivals that it has contacted but who have so far not responded to the request for a position on the use of such tech.

The campaigners are responding to growing concerns over the employment of facial recognition technology and the privacy implications that its use raises.

When launching its facial recognition ‘scorecard’ earlier this week, Fight The Future stated: “Several major festivals – including SXSW, Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival and Pitchfork Music Festival – along with all properties of the major events conglomerate AEG Presents, did not respond to repeated requests from organisers, and have made no commitments, causing concern among fans that they may be currently experimenting with facial recognition or planning to use it in the future”.

As for the other live music giant, Live Nation, it previously invested in a start-up developing a facial recognition system for large-scale events. Though, in the midst of the current backlash, it insists that it is not currently using any such system at any of its shows.

Fight For The Future say this confirmation “is a positive step given that they previously invested in the technology. But troublingly, they explicitly left the door open to future use on an ‘opt-in’ basis, something security and human rights experts warn does not alleviate the concerns with mass collection of sensitive biometric information”.

Tom Morello, Amanda Palmer, Thievery Corporation, Gramatik, Anti-Flag and Melissa Ferrick are among the artists who are supporting the campaign to pressure live music firms to reject facial recognition tech at their venues and events.

For his part, Morello said in a tweet: “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 [the live sector] not to use #facialrecognition at festivals and concerts”.

You can see the Fight For The Future ‘scorecard’ here.