Ticketmaster’s Facial Recognition Sparks Controversy

Next time you go to a concert, you might have to surrender your face’s data to get in.

Photo Credit: Alternative Press

Taylor Swift concerts, sports games, and airline flights have all made use of facial recognition technology in lieu of tickets and to screen attendees. If a guest has a criminal record, they could be barred entry. At select events last year, Ticketmaster began having customers walk by cameras, scanning their faces instead of tickets. But the use of this artificial intelligence has consequences deeper than security and efficiency.

Once a company has your face’s data, you can’t take it back. China, a country with 200 million government-owned surveillance cameras, employs facial recognition technology. The apparent aim is to reduce crime and catch fugitives, but it also has a side benefit: the Chinese government knows where everyone is, and what they are doing. Concerns have been raised that facial recognition at concerts is a slippery slope to larger scale surveillance. In light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the rise of Deepfakes, others worry who will see this data and what it could be used for.

In 2018, Joy Buolamwini published a thesis analysing bias in facial recognition technology. Buolamwini found that across all programs, the highest rate of inaccuracy was for the facial recognition of dark-skinned women and the highest rate of accuracy was for light-skinned men. She also found that for IBM Watson, a British AI pioneer, gender recognition got markedly worse as subjects’ skin tones got darker. The disproportionately high rates of misidentification across all facial recognition AIs when used on people of colour could lead to more searches, police questioning, and discrimination.

Digital rights group Fight For The Future is leading a campaign against Ticketmaster’s use of facial recognition. Musicians such as Speedy Ortiz, The Glitch Mob, and Rage Against the Machine have joined this effort. Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer had this to say:

“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. 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.”

What do you think about Ticketmaster’s Facial Recognition service? Let us know in the comments down below!