Remarkable nib in Rolling Stone today:
Taylor Swift fans mesmerized by rehearsal clips on a kiosk at her May 18th Rose Bowl show were unaware of one crucial detail: A facial-recognition camera inside the display was taking their photos. The images were being transferred to a Nashville “command post,” where they were cross-referenced with a database of hundreds of the pop star’s known stalkers.
Woah boy. Lots to unpack there: if, as the story suggests, fans were unaware they were being scanned… then what? Worth burying into the T&Cs attached to concert tickets in future to see what’s lurking. This use case of facial recognition – pioneered in China – will only get more prevalent.
I’ve been in touch with the Oak View Group – whose CTO is quoted in the Rolling Stone piece as having seen the tech – to learn more. My questions:
- What kind of consent is given by fans who have their faces scanned by the technology?
- How long is the data retained?
- Can a concert goer opt out and still be admitted to the event?
I’ve been met with silence by Swift’s label, the Oak View Group and the Rose Bowl. Rolling Stone does not name the company involved in the tech.
But, I did have an interesting chat with Blink Identity, a company in the same space. It counts Ticketmaster among its investors (but, to be clear, is not the firm behind the tech apparently used at the Swift gig).
In 2019 Blink Identity – which claims to be able to verify a person’s face at walking speed – is going to start testing out its “your face is your ticket” system. The company likened it to the TSA pre-check line at the airport.
Rather than scanning everyone – as the Rolling Stones story suggests happened at the Rose Bowl – Blink Identity’s system provides those who opt-in (by sending a selfie) a chance to have a breezier entry into major events.
Gizmodo is as confused as I am about this one:
The Rolling Stone report has taken off in the past day, with Quartz, Vanity Fair, the Hill, the Verge, Business Insider, and others picking up the story. But the only real information we have is from Downing. And so far no one has answered some key questions—including the Oak View Group and Prevent Advisors, which have not responded to multiple requests for comment.
For starters, who is running this face recognition system? Was Taylor Swift or her people informed this reported measure would be in place? Were concertgoers informed that their photos were being taken and sent to a facial recognition database in another state? Were the photos stored, and if so, where and for how long? There were reportedly more than 60,000 people at the Rose Bowl concert—how many of those people had their mug snapped by the alleged spybooth? Did the system identify any Swift stalkers—and, if they did, what happened to those people?
At the end of all this I’m wondering: why did Rolling Stone not name the company?