Music Festivals Facing Pressure to Ban Facial Recognition From Venues
Several festivals, including Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits, have said publicly that they are not currently using facial recognition at their events.
- By Haley Samsel
- Sep 25, 2019
Major music festivals across the country are facing pressure to ban facial recognition systems from their events from a growing number of privacy rights organizations and artists.
Fight for the Future, a digital rights group, released an updated “scorecard” on Monday depicting which festivals in the U.S. have committed to not using facial recognition software on fans as part of their security operations. Several festivals, including Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and Electric Forest, have said publicly that they do not have plans to use the technology at their events.
In a statement to Stereogum, a representative for Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits said that although they are not planning to use it, they have not offered a pledge to Fight for the Future.
Others did not respond to the group’s “repeated requests” for clarification on their practices regarding facial recognition. Those festivals include SXSW, Coachella, Electric Daisy Carnival Pitchfork Music Festival and all events under the ownership of AEG Presents. Coachella said it was “not looking to add to this conversation at this time,” according to the organization.
Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight for The Future, said in a press release that fans deserve to know whether their favorite festivals have plans to use the software.
“Festival organizers have a moral imperative to clearly commit to not using this invasive and racially biased technology on music fans,” Greer said, referencing research finding that facial recognition is less accurate for people of color and women. “They should never put our safety and basic rights at risk just to collect our data and turn it into profit.”
Music venues have shown more interest in the facial recognition market in recent years, with Ticketmaster investing in a company that aims to allow ticketholders to enter a concert without scanning anything. In a statement last week, Ticketmaster (which owns LiveNation) told Digital Music News it is not currently using facial recognition but left the door open for future implementations.
“Ticketmaster is always exploring new ways to enhance the fan experience, and while we do not currently have plans to deploy facial recognition technology at our ‘clients’ venues, rest assured, any future consideration would be strictly opt-in, always giving fans the right to choose,” the Live Nation spokesperson said.
Artists like Tom Morello, the guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and Prophets of Rage, have joined the campaign to make companies like Ticketmaster clarify their policies.
Greer of Fight for the Future said the campaign is calling on the entire music industry to stand against facial recognition due to concerns over mass collection of biometric information.
"We’re calling on all artists, venues, festivals, and promoters to stick up for their fans’ basic rights and safety by speaking out against the use of Big Brother style biometric surveillance at live music events,” Greer said.
Haley Samsel is an Associate Content Editor for the Infrastructure Solutions Group at 1105 Media.