Facial recognition at music festivals: new boycott calls on sponsors of Coachella and other AEG Presents events to pull out after company refuses to say whether they are using invasive and racially biased surveillance.
Festivals including Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits, Pitchfork, Riot Fest, The Governors Ball, and Wanderlust have already stated they are not and do not plan to use invasive and racially biased face scanning technology
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Digital rights group Fight for the Future is calling on major music festival sponsors to pull their support for festivals including Coachella, Bumbershoot, and Hangout Music Fest after their parent company, AEG Presents, the second largest event company in the US, failed to state whether it is using controversial facial recognition on fans.
Major festivals like Pitchfork, The Governors Ball, Riot Fest, Bonnaroo, and Austin City Limits issued statements making it clear they have no plans to use invasive and racially biased facial recognition technology. On Wednesday, Insomniac Events, producers of blockbuster EDM festivals including Electric Daisy Carnival, Beyond Wonderland, and Okeechobee, issued the same statement. Paradiso Fest, Sonic Bloom, Summer Meltdown, Lucidity Festival and Punk Rock Bowling posted their commitment to not use the tech publicly.
Goldenvoice, who runs Coachella as a subsidiary of AEG Presents, explicitly refused to comment when asked to clarify their current policies and future plans regarding the use of facial recognition, saying “we are not looking to add to this conversation at this time.” This non-statement has fueled concerns among activists and music fans that they may be currently experimenting with facial recognition or planning to use it in the future.
The webpage helps concerned music fans to tweet nine major sponsors, including Pandora, Corona, Coca Cola, Uber, and Bose to ask them to suspend their support until the events make their position clear.
See the webpage here: https://www.banfacialrecognition.com/festivals
“Over the past two weeks, hundreds of fans have used our site to email or tweet AEG Presents events, and we’ve made multiple attempts to contact the organization for a statement,” said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future (pronouns: she/her). “They are definitely aware that their customers are concerned. Live Nation issued a statement to us two weeks ago, and the longer AEG takes to respond, the more concern grows. People deserve to know whether attending Coachella, Jazz Fest, or any AEG event puts them at risk of having their actions at those events in a permanent government database.
Facial recognition, even when used in an opt-in manner, poses serious threats to privacy and civil liberties. It’s systematically misidentifies people of color, exacerbating existing forms of discrimination, and it’s been used by ICE to target undocumented families. AEG should clearly commit to not using this invasive and racially biased technology on music fans. They should never put our safety and basic rights at risk just to collect our data and turn it into profit.”
Ticketmaster / Live Nation issued a statement confirming that it is not currently using facial recognition at its events, a positive step given that they previously invested in the technology. But troublingly, they explicitly left the door open to future use on an “opt in” basis, something security and human rights experts warn does not alleviate the concerns with mass collection of sensitive biometric information. All commitments not to use the technology to date are listed on a scorecard on the Ban Facial Recognition website.
Headlining artists like Tom Morello, Amanda Palmer, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Thievery Corporation, Gramatik, Anti-Flag, Atmosphere, Speedy Ortiz, Melissa Ferrick, The Glitch Mob, Downtown Boys, Laura Stevenson, Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem, Jeff Rosenstock, and B Dolan support the campaign, along with thousands of fans who have posted on social media and signed a petition.
Facial recognition is not widespread at music events in the US. But Ticketmaster and other event companies have previously lauded their partnerships in the controversial technology, and even smaller bars and venues are experimenting with it. Reports show Madison Square Garden is already using facial recognition surveillance.
Invasive and racially biased in ticket venues
“I don’t want Big Brother at my shows targeting fans for harassment, deportation, or arrest. That’s why I’m joining this campaign calling on @Ticketmaster and others not to use #facialrecognition at festivals and concerts,” Tom Morello, legendary guitarist of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and Prophets of Rage, tweeted in support of the campaign.
“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," Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer added, "We're calling on all artists, venues, festivals, and promoters 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."
The campaign is part of Fight for the Future’s broader BanFacialRecognition.com campaign, which has been endorsed my more than 30 major grassroots civil rights organizations including Greenpeace, Color of Change, Daily Kos, United We Dream, Council on American Islamic Relations, MoveOn, and Free Press. The groups are calling for local, state, and federal lawmakers to ban law enforcement use of facial recognition. Several cities have already banned the controversial technology outright, including San Francisco, Somerville, MA, and Oakland, CA, and there is growing bipartisan support in Congress to address the issue at the federal level.