For immediate release: June 22, 2023


As facial recognition creeps into event venues across the country, 25 venues and 100+ artists, including Tom Morello, Zack de la Rocha, Boots Riley, and Jill Sobule, raise concerns about the tech’s harm to fans of color and LGBTQI+ fans.

Tom Morello, Zack de la Rocha, Boots Riley, Wheatus, Jill Sobule, Deerhoof, ANTI-FLAG, Bedouine, Speedy Ortiz, Mirah, and Riobamba are among the 100+ artists and performers that have pledged to boycott venues using controversial facial recognition technology at shows. 25 independent venues, including House of Yes in Brooklyn and the Black Cat in DC, have also joined the effort, pledging to keep their event spaces free of facial recognition surveillance technology. The full lists of artists and venues can be viewed here.

The Artist and Venue Pledges were launched by Fight for the Future as part of a broader mobilization against Madison Square Garden’s use of facial recognition to identify, track, and kick fans out of events.  

From “paperless ticketing,” to payments, to the enforcement of blacklists and surveillance security systems, invasive facial recognition is spreading throughout the live entertainment industry. But a growing number of lawmakers, artists, business owners, and other advocates are speaking out against this technology, citing its potential for supercharging existing surveillance and discrimination, creating opportunities for mass-scale biometric identity theft, chilling free speech and social movements, and increasing life-threatening encounters between people of color and violent police through false matches.

This campaign builds on past work by Fight for the Future to ban facial recognition at festivals, which resulted in 40+ of the largest music festivals in the US confirming they do not use facial recognition and have no plans to use the tech. In 2022, Fight for the Future also published an open letter signed by over 300 artists opposing biometric surveillance technology at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The letter succeeded in pushing Red Rocks to ax its plans to introduce palm scanning ticketing (a form of biometric data collection, like facial recognition), which would have endangered fans of color and other event attendees targeted by discriminatory state surveillance.

In addition to the Artist and Venue Pledges, lawmakers in New York City and the New York State Senate have introduced legislation targeting biometric surveillance in public places. If passed, these jurisdictions will join Portland, Oregon, in prohibiting the use of facial recognition in stores, restaurants, gyms, and other places of public accommodation, setting a national precedent for the protection of everyday people’s privacy.     

“Facial recognition technology doesn’t keep us safe; it perpetuates racist biases and commodifies our biometric data. That’s why I’m proud to have introduced Intro 1014 to ban its use in spaces of public accommodation as well as join with venues and musicians across the country to demand we end the use of this dangerous technology,” said New York Council Member Shahana Hanif. “I am thrilled to see so many venues and artists show their support for banning the use of biometric surveillance. Our opponents claim that this technology is essential to safety in the public arena, but this support proves that it’s the very businesses being marketed this technology that intimately understands its inherent dangers.”

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said, “Facial recognition technology has been proven time and again to be discriminatory and inaccurate. As shown by Madison Square Garden’s inappropriate use of the technology for non-security purposes, facial recognition can be used to chill free speech and even can lead to the misuse of personal biometric data without consent. I applaud Fight for the Future and the 100+ venues and artists that are calling for the ban of this dystopian technology from live events.”

“Venues aren’t allowed to discriminate against BIPOC fans, so why should we let them use AI that does the same?” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn. “New Yorkers deserve to go to a concert without worry when the AI will turn on them. This technology is error prone, invasive, and just creepy. If we leave it unchecked, the rich and the powerful will have even more power to silence critics and those who stand up to them in court. Simply put, facial recognition and democracy just aren’t compatible.”

“Surveillance tech companies are pitching biometric data tools as ‘innovative’ and helpful for increasing efficiency and security. Not only is this false, it’s morally corrupt. Whether it’s in the form of ticketing, payments, or actual surveillance, facial recognition at live events poses enormous risks to fans, workers, and performers. For starters, this technology is so inaccurate that it actually creates more harm and problems than it solves, through misidentification and other technical faultiness. Even scarier, though, is a world in which all facial recognition technology works 100% perfectly–in other words, a world in which privacy is nonexistent, where we’re identified, watched, and surveilled everywhere we go,” said Leila Nashashibi, Campaigner at Fight for the Future. “As we fight to pass legislation in the New York City Council and New York State Senate that would prohibit the use of facial recognition in public places, there are immediate steps that artists, venues, and fans can take towards ending the spread of this dangerous technology in the entertainment industry – like the pledge – and all of us have the responsibility to act.”