Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine), Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre), Mannequin Pussy, Gramatik, Sadie Dupuis (Speedy Ortiz, Sad13), Jeff Rosenstock, Evan Greer, Anjimile, illuminati hotties, Martha, DIIV, Anti-Flag, Downtown Boys, and Mirah are among the hundreds of artists voicing their outrage at the recent introduction of Amazon palm scanning biometric surveillance devices at Red Rock through an open letter calling on the venue, its ticketing partner AXS, and AEG Worldwide to immediately cancel all contracts and plans to use Amazon’s palm scanning technology for event entry. The letter also demands an end to all biometric surveillance at venues and events. 30 leading human rights organizations have joined the list of endorsers, including United We Dream, Kairos, Access Now, Presente.org, American Friends Service Committee, Media Justice and Jobs With Justice.
The Amazon One scanners were introduced at Red Rocks in mid September – the result of a contract between AEG and Amazon. AXS, AEG’s ticketing group, says other venues will soon be adding the palm scanning option, following Red Rocks. Fight for the Future contacted representatives of Red Rocks, AEG and AXS to request a meeting to discuss the dangers of palm scanning, but received no response.
The letter and accompanying background text state that Amazon, a corporation with a disturbing history of collaboration with law enforcement, could pass the biometric data collected from the palm scanning devices to government agencies that want to track and target political activists, people of color, and other marginalized groups. The fact that Amazon is storing the palm scan data in the cloud also raises unprecedented identity theft concerns, given that biometric data are largely immutable–they cannot be changed or replaced if stolen–and corporate cloud databases have frequently been targeted by hackers.
In 2019, a coalition of activist groups, artists and music fans (including some of the organizations and artists signed onto the Red Rocks letter) convinced 40 of the largest music festivals in the US to say no to dangerous facial recognition technology. AEG made a separate statement denouncing the use of facial recognition in response to the campaign.
“Thousands visit Red Rocks every month to experience amazing performances, not to be part of some dangerous biometric surveillance experiment. Amazon using the guise of convenience to convince droves of concert-goers to offer up their biometric data is twisted, disturbing, and unacceptable. Simply put, palm scans and other forms of biometric data collection, like facial recognition, are tools of state violence,” said Siena Mann, Campaign Manager for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, “To this day, biometrics collection is central to Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) and police departments’ surveillance infrastructure. Any commercial use of these tools has and will inevitably feed the discriminatory structures they emerged from. Even in instances of non-cooperation, make no mistake that once the databases are created, police and DHS will find ways to access them.”
“I don’t want anyone coming to one of my concerts to have to worry that they’ll be subjected to invasive surveillance, or coerced into handing over their sensitive biometric information to a corporation,” said Evan Greer (she/her), the director of Fight for the Future and a musician who recently released an album titled Spotify is Surveillance, “Music festivals and many concert venues are already unsafe, exclusive, and inaccessible for many marginalized folks, including trans and nonbinary people. Introducing biometric surveillance technology at events, even just for the marginal-at-best ‘convenience’ of making the line move faster, makes music fans less safe.”
“Corporations have tried to make this tech sound harmless, but let’s be clear: Amazon has a vested interest in getting millions of people to give up their palm scans. The palm scanning scheme at Red Rocks is simply priming people for the day when submitting iris scans, fingerprint scans, and face scans everywhere becomes totally normalized. With the next-level tracking that biometrics allow, Amazon will be able to exercise more influence over our thoughts and behaviors than ever before, and in turn, rake in unprecedented levels of profits,” added Matt Nelson, Executive Director of Presente.org.
“I live 15 minutes from Red Rocks and have enjoyed so many amazing nights listening to live music there,” said Caitlin Seeley George (she/her), Campaign Director at Fight for the Future. “It pains me that this palm scanning technology is being used in such a special place, on people who just want to go and enjoy a live show and likely don’t understand the risks of giving over their biometric data – risks like identity theft and having data passed on to abusive law enforcement agencies or marketing companies. We have to stop this technology from spreading before it becomes impossible to avoid, and we expect places like Red Rocks to champion the safety of music lovers over this dangerous and invasive surveillance.”
“Amazon is all about gathering and amassing the most intimate information and data from our lives and our bodies, but when it comes to violations and breaches of their devices and the data they’ve collected, the company has shown it simply does not care about customer safety or customer concerns. That’s because Amazon isn’t really paying the price for those breaches. We are. We’re the ones who have to live the rest of our lives fighting identity theft and managing the fallout of these violations of our privacy. Their relentless push to place profits over people must end,” said Isabela Bagueros, Executive Director of The Tor Project.