Facial Recognition Kiosk at Taylor Swift Concert Brings Up Data Security and Privacy Issues

Facial Recognition Kiosk at Taylor Swift Concert Brings Up Data Security and Privacy Issues

Data security and privacy experts discuss the issues of facial recognition at Taylor Swift's May 18th concert.

Fans of Taylor Swift may have gotten a little more than they bargained for at her Los Angeles show this past May. Reports of a kiosk rolling clips of her concert rehearsal is said to have scanned the faces of those who stopped to watch and send them to a "command post" in Nashville. 

The kiosk was designed to use facial recognition to capture images of the faces that stopped to watch. From there the images were sent to Nashville where they were cross-referenced with a database of hundreds of Swift's known stalkers, according to Mike Downing, chief security officer at Oak View Group. 

"Everybody who went by would stop and stare at it, and the software would start working," Downing said in a Rolling Stone article. 

The news of the face scanning kiosk rose questions about data security and privacy at these events. I asked Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate at Comparitech.com what he thought about the situation. What it boiled down to is: consent.  

”Concert goers did not consent to their photos being taken for this purpose, and they certainly weren't informed of what the images would be used for, who they would be shared with, or how long they'll be retained," Bischoff said. "We don't even know who the images actually belong to, so fans have little recourse if they want to complain or have their photo deleted."

Tyler Reguly, manager of security R&D at Tripwire, believes the security tool is an effective way to use cutting-edge technology to increase the likelihood of a more secure concert experience. 

"When you venture into an event like this, you give up your privacy," Reguly said. "Pretty much when you leave your home, you give up your privacy. While people may actively avoid the obvious security cameras, covert cameras in displays are a great way to monitor the crowd and that doesn’t really concern me. Safety is a priority at these events."

In the end, Reguly believes the security team at Swift's concert did a great job at enhancing security at the show with technology not as commonly used with the public yet.

"We’re so accustomed to 'in your face' security, like at the airport, that we forget that security can be more subtle and still be effective," Reguly said. "As someone who attends dozens of concerts each year, I welcome this technology at our local theatres, arenas, and concert halls."

While this is not the first, or last time, that we will likely see facial recognition software used at a concert venue, Bischoff recommends security companies be more transparent when implementing the software.

"Facial recognition technology has only started proliferating public life and it could have huge privacy implications, so businesses that use it in public settings need to tread carefully," Bischoff said. "That didn't happen at Taylor Swift's show.”

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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