Concert-goers at California’s Rose Bowl in May 2018 didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary when they attended the latest stop on Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour.
According to a Rolling Stone article published December 13, a kiosk at the concert that displayed clips from Swift’s concert rehearsals was set up with ulterior motives. The kiosk contained technology that recorded the faces of passersby. These images were then transmitted nearly 2,000 miles away to an outpost in Nashville, Tennessee, where they were monitored and compared to pictures of hundreds of Taylor Swift stalkers.
Mike Downing, chief security officer of live entertainment security company Oak View Group, said of the facial recognition tech, “Everybody who went by would stop and stare at it, and the software would start working.”
Whether or not the tech was successful in picking out any known stalkers was not revealed. The whereabouts of the recorded footage is unknown as well.
Earlier this year, another concert acted as the background for an attempted criminal capture. In April, a 31-year-old suspect referred to as “Mr. Ao” was apprehended by Chinese police among a crowd of 60,000 people at the Nanchang International Sports Center after he was identified by facial recognition cameras posted at the entrance. Ao was wanted “in connection with an economic dispute.”
If you’re curious as to the legality of these cameras, because most concerts are typically private events, they’re perfectly fine as long as they’re mounted somewhere inside the venue past the security checkpoints. Taylor Swift’s performance is the first publicly known instance of facial recognition being employed at a concert in the US.
However, this is fast becoming a common occurrence in China. In an alleged effort to cut down on crime, the movements of Chinese citizens are tracked nearly everywhere as part of what the BBC has termed “the world’s biggest surveillance network.” The “Xue Liang” (“Sharp Eyes”) monitoring system was reported to consist of 170 million CCTV cameras earlier this year, but that number is expected to balloon to a whopping 570 million by 2021.
What’s truly remarkable in all of this is the ability of these cameras to pick out a single individual in a crowd of thousands with such precision. China has also supposedly used the tech to arrest 25 fugitives at a beer festival and to catch multiple criminals in the country’s subways.
Although this is a novel concept to us right now, there may come a day when we won’t have a second thought about having our faces recorded in such a public space. If Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s vision comes to fruition, people will no longer use physical tickets to attend live entertainment events. Ticketmaster is currently developing the technology for a system that would grant admission based on a facial scan connected to your venue seat.
What are your thoughts on this subject? What do you think will happen to the concept of “privacy” in a future where facial recognition is an everyday norm?