More Than 40 Music Festivals Pledge to Ban Facial Recognition

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Photo Credit: Mike MacKenzie / CC by 3.0

Activist group Fight for the Future has managed to get 40 music festivals to ban facial recognition technology.

Facial scanning software has already been used at some live music venues.  Just this year, we learned that Taylor Swift used the tech to keep tabs on her stalkers.  Facial recognition software goes far beyond security purposes, with facial scans entering massive databases for ad targeting and behavioral tracking — just to name two downstream applications.

Companies like Ticketmaster have invested money in facial ID tech companies like Blink Identity as recently as last year. That startup is run by ex-defense contractors that helped to build the U.S. military’s facial recognition system in Afghanistan.

Companies like Ticketmaster hope to use the tech for displaying targeted ads, or monitoring your activity while at the venue. For example, marketers might push merch advertising more heavily to people who make frequent passes by merch stands.

At least 40 of the world’s largest music festivals have agreed to the facial recognition ban. Coachella, Bonnaroo, and SXSW have gone on record saying they will not use the tech. Even Ticketmaster says it has no plans to use facial recognition tech at its live shows, despite the investment in Blink Identity.

Fight for the Future brought attention to the issue through grassroots activism and social media pressure. They also proposed economic boycotts of any festival sponsors or artists for those who do use the technology. While the focus so far has been on music festivals, Fight for the Future is turning its sights to other live events.

Outside Lands, Life is Beautiful, iHeartRadio Music Festival, Boston Calling, and Burning Man won’t commit to not using the tech.

More than 30 organizations have endorsed the fight against facial recognition in all aspects of life. At least four cities in the U.S. have banned government use of biometric spy tech. Many of those who favor the technology say facial recognition is “opt-in only” and can easily be regulated.

For now, public opinion seems to be against deploying the technology. Out of all the music festivals targeted by this campaign, only five have stated they ‘might use’ facial recognition tech.