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Festivals face pressure from campaign group over facial recognition

Digital rights advocacy group Fight For the Future has released a list of music festivals that have pledged to never employ facial recognition for ticketing or security purposes at their events.

The US-based group has also highlighted festivals, primarily across the country, that have said it “might use” the technology in the future, or that have refuse to commit to a complete ban.

Music festivals such as Shambala, Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits have “made a clear commitment to not use facial recognition on fans,” while the likes of Boston Calling, Coachella and Lollapalooza have “refused to commit,” meaning that they might use this technology now or in the future.

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”.

The campaign group’s webpage states that facial recognition “is coming, unless we stop it.” Adding that major companies are already investing in it, with smaller bars and venues experimenting with it.

It states: “Festivals, venues, and promoters must take a stand and refuse to use this invasive and racially biased technology, which puts music fans at risk of being unjustly detained, harassed, judged, or even deported. 24/7 mass surveillance will not keep concerts safe. Silence is complicity, so now we’re keeping score.”

Earlier this month, the campaign group called on Ticketmaster and its parent company, Live Nation to ban facial recognition at its concert venues and festivals. The companies later told Digital Music News that they do not “currently have plans to deploy facial recognition” at their venues.

Fight For The Future said 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”.

The group has been joined by a coalition of musicians and activists that claim to fundamentally disagree with the face-scanning technology being used as an entry method at events, rather than presenting a ticket.

Artists standing against facial recognition technology at concerts and festivals include Speedy Ortiz, The Glitch Mob, and Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello.