Ticketmaster still won’t commit to not using facial recognition on fans, and they’re lying about it

Posted September 18, 2019, 6:13 PM

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 18, 2019
Contact: Evan Greer, press@fightforthefuture.org, 978-852-6457

Tom Morello, Amanda Palmer, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Thievery Corporation, Atmosphere, Gramatik, Speedy Ortiz, The Glitch Mob, Downtown Boys among artists opposing invasive surveillance at music events 

Last week, digital rights group Fight for the Future launched a new campaign mobilizing artists, music fans, and event organizers to oppose the use of facial recognition surveillance at music festivals, concerts, and events. The page highlights the fact that Ticketmaster / Live Nation has invested in a partnership with a company that makes facial recognition software, but the campaign calls on music festivals and promoters to commit to not using this invasive technology on fans.

Yesterday, a Live Nation representative told a reporter that Fight for the Future’s campaign is “misinformation,” and claimed that they had reached out to Fight for the Future to clarify their position. Today we can confirm that this is false. Fight for the Future has not received any communications from Live Nation about their investment in facial recognition technology, or their future plans to use it. 

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“It’s funny, I get a lot of spam emails from Live Nation about buying overpriced tickets for concerts that I’m not interested in, but I haven’t gotten a single email from them about this campaign, even though they’re telling reporters they’ve reached out to us,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. 

Live Nation / Ticketmaster also shared this statement with reporters:

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Fight for the Future has the following response, which can be attributed to its Deputy Director, Evan Greer: 

“This is exactly the same talking point that we’re getting from the airline industry. If Live Nation / Ticketmaster isn’t planning to use facial recognition, then why not explicitly commit to that? Even if they only use it in an opt-in manner for entry to events, it still raises significant privacy and civil liberties concerns. And fans will still need to go through a physical search, so it’s not really saving anyone any time, it’s just an excuse to vacuum up lots of data on music fans. 

If Ticketmaster cares about protecting music fans safety and basic rights, they should make an explicit commitment to not use facial recognition at events, now or in the future. 

Once a private corporation like Ticketmaster has collected hundreds of thousands of people’s sensitive biometric information, there’s no telling what they could do with it. They could use it to track people around the festival in order to serve them targeted advertising. They could sell that data to other private companies or hand it over to government agencies like ICE or local police. Once biometric data is collected and stored in a database it’s vulnerable to attacks, like the Customs and Border Protection facial recognition database that was breached. 

As we’ve seen with the airlines, allowing fans to “opt out” of facial recognition doesn’t fix the problems inherent in the technology. Many fans might not be aware of the risks involved with opting in, and others may feel uncomfortable opting out for fear that it could subject them to additional screening.”

Live Nation / Ticketmaster’s claims that they have “no current plans” to use this technology are dubious without an explicit commitment. The original announcement from Blink Identity, the facial recognition company they have partnered with, reads “Plans include the use of Blink’s walking-speed biometric solution at venues to facilitate admission to live shows and more.

At least one sports venue in the UK, which is owned by Live Nation / Ticketmaster, is reportedly planning to use facial recognition as well, casting the company’s statement in further doubt.”

See the original “Ban Facial Recognition at Festivals” campaign page here: https://www.banfacialrecognition.com/festivals

Headlining artists like Tom Morello, Amanda Palmer, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Thievery Corporation, Gramatik, Anti-Flag, Atmosphere, Speedy Ortiz, The Glitch Mob, Downtown Boys, Laura Stevenson, Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem, and B Dolan support the campaign, and Washington’s USC Events, the producers of Paradiso Festival, are among the first to commit to not use the technology along with Punk Rock Bowling festival in Las Vegas. 

Ticketmaster and other event companies laud their partnerships in the controversial technology, and even smaller bars and venues are experimenting with it. Reports show Madison Square Garden is already using facial recognition surveillance.

“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 @Ticketmaster and others not to use #facialrecognition at festivals and concerts,” Tom Morello, legendary guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and Prophets of Rage, tweeted in support of the campaign. 

“Facial recognition surveillance is uniquely dangerous. It doesn’t keep fans or artists safe, it just subjects them to invasive, racially biased monitoring that will inevitably lead to fans getting harassed, falsely arrested, deported, or worse,“ said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her), "We’re calling on all artists 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.”

The campaign is part of Fight for the Future’s broader BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, which has been endorsed my more than 30 major grassroots civil rights organizations including Greenpeace, Color of Change, Daily Kos, United We Dream, Council on American Islamic Relations, MoveOn, and Free Press. The groups are calling for local, state, and federal lawmakers to ban law enforcement use of facial recognition.

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