With the 2020 season over, the NBA is considering how to bring fans and players back together for games next year. To protect the safety of all involved, their plans cannot include facial recognition in arenas.
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Just days after the close of the 2020 season, civil rights groups are launching a new campaign to pressure the NBA to protect fans, players, and staff by banning facial recognition from use at arenas. Fight for the Future and MediaJustice have launched BanFacialRecognition.com/nba to gather grassroots pressure to ensure that plans for the 2021 season do not include this technology that is racially biased, infringes on privacy, and would force those attending games to be a part of a massive surveillance system.
"We’ve seen this year that the NBA cares about safety, but they need to double down on this commitment moving forward by banning facial recognition," said Caitlin Seeley George (she/her), Campaign Director at Fight for the Future. "This is a critical moment because conversations are happening right now about how to get people back to games next year. Facial recognition companies are trying to weasel their way into arenas by calling their tools "safe" and "touch free." But the NBA needs to see past these sales pitches to the truth: that facial recognition is dangerous, and if used in arenas it will create a massive surveillance system that puts the privacy and safety of fans, players, and other arena staff at risk."
Myaisha Hayes (she/her), Campaign Strategies Director at MediaJustice said: "This season, players, coaches, and teams chose to use their high-profile platforms to highlight injustices happening in our country. To continue their show of support for racial justice, they must unite against facial recognition technology. This technology is inherently biased, puts Black and Brown people in danger, and cannot be installed in arenas around the country where hundreds of thousands of people could be subjected to invasive surveillance that then can create opportunities for police to enact more violence against us."
The NBA faced backlash last year after being exposed for using Clearview, a notorious facial recognition tool that has scraped billions of images from social media and other sites across the internet without consent. At the time, an NBA spokesperson said it was just a test and that they were not clients of Clearview. Facial recognition has also been used at Madison Square Garden and by the Dallas Mavericks. "We can’t allow this to become normalized," said Seeley George. "NBA teams that have used the technology should stop, and as discussions move forward about the 2021 season, teams and players should call out any plans to use facial recognition."
Fight for the Future and MediaJustice are part of the national campaign backed by dozens of other grassroots organizations calling for an outright ban on law enforcement and government use of facial recognition, as well as private use of the technology. These groups have run campaigns to ban use of facial recognition, including in music festivals, schools, and as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
MediaJustice is dedicated to building a grassroots movement for a more just and participatory media—fighting for racial, economic, and gender justice in a digital age. MediaJustice boldly advances communication rights, access, and power for communities harmed by persistent dehumanization, discrimination and disadvantage. Home of the #MediaJusticeNetwork, comprised of more than 100 grassroots partners, we envision a future where everyone is connected, represented, and free.
Fight for the Future is a national digital rights organization with more than 2.4 million members in the USA that harnesses the power of the Internet to channel outrage into action, defending the most basic rights in the digital age. They fight to ensure that technology is a force for empowerment, free expression, and liberation rather than tyranny, corruption, and structural inequality.