Biometric scans can speed entry to places like the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater, but not everyone is happy with the expansion of technology in live entertainment. (Courtesy of Denver Tour)
Campaigners say biometric identification is a ‘convenience constraint’
Amazon has caused a stir in sports and entertainment venues with its frictionless Just Walk Out outlets, but the use of its palm-scanning technology at Red Rocks Amphitheater has drawn backlash from activists and artists concerned about the privacy and surveillance implications.
More than 200 artists, including Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill and Sean Ono Lennon, as well as more than two dozen organizations, signed a letter urging ticketing company Axs and its parent company AEG Worldwide to abandon the use of Amazon One palm scanning at the Morrison, Colorado facility.
Red Rocks, about 20 miles southwest of Denver and owned by that city, activated the technology in September, linked to its digital ticketing system to access the amphitheater. Registered customers scan their palm instead of a ticket barcode at a designated entry point.
In October, Amazon One debuted at new NHL arenas in Seattle and New York as part of Delaware North Sportservice’s concession operations.
Leila Nashashibi, an activist for Fight for the Future, the advocacy group spearheading efforts to wipe out Amazon One from entertainment facilities, said the technology and facial recognition systems used by technology provider Clear pose a threat due to the sensitive data collected and stored. in the cloud.
This is a threat that many consumers can dismiss for convenience.
But according to Nashashibi, the practicality is overrated compared to the danger of government, law enforcement and hackers accessing the data and using it for their own ends.
âThe added benefit and convenience is incredibly marginal,â she said. “The difference between scanning your palm and pulling and scanning a ticket is like trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Those who use the technology to bypass the lines may not agree, but Nashashibi says that even when the benefit is “more than marginal, we have to think about these are the strategies of the tech companies to get people to get away from it all. register for a product and submit their most sensitive personal information while getting very little information about the potential risks of doing so.
The fact that Amazon One is an opt-in platform does not allay the concerns of Fight for the Future.
âThis is an incredibly problematic technology and the fact that it is optional is not enough in terms of protection against potential dangers. It has to do with broader concerns about biometric data collection tools, âNashashibi said.
“We really need to think about this phenomenon that some experts call ‘coercion of convenience’,” she said. âEven the simple perception of the added convenience can be enough to get thousands of people to sign up for this technology without any information about the risks. “
“Coercion of convenience” is really about “manipulating people and getting them to hand over their valuable personal data,” she said. âWe need detailed information on the risks of biometric data collection tools such as palm scan and this needs to be generalized. Red Rocks and anyone using these tools have a responsibility to educate people about the potential risks. “
A spokeswoman for AEG, which also promotes concerts at Red Rocks, declined to comment.
Amazon One is used in four dealerships at Climate Pledge Arena, which is privately developed by VenuesNow’s parent company, Oak View Group. In Seattle, the palm scanner is a payment option aside from inserting a credit card to enter these market type destinations.
For the palm scan option, it takes about a minute to register and link your palm to a credit or debit card or account. Once someone enters their credit card account information and scans their palm into the system, customers just need to place their hand on an entry pedestal or payment scanner.
“I don’t feel like we’re forcing people in any way,” said Todd Humphrey, senior vice president of digital and fan experience for Seattle Kraken Hockey Club, which has for home to the Climate Pledge Arena. âFrom a time point of view, I don’t think they save that much; it’s really just the convenience of not having to put a hand in your pocket. We are very clear with people: there are two very distinct ways of paying and we leave the choice to people.
Having hosted nearly two dozen events since the Climate Pledge Arena opened about five weeks ago, there have been no complaints from anyone about being coerced or asked to enter their information, a said Humphrey.
For years, teams and locations have deepened data analytics to see who walks into their buildings both to personalize their experience and generate more revenue by targeting them with offers, whether it’s upgrades seats or discounts on concessions and goods. Amazon One provides them with another data point to identify the needs and interests of their fans.
âWe would love to know, for a variety of reasons and certainly not to invade anyone’s privacy, but to provide a better, safer and more secure experience,â Humphrey said. âIt would be very helpful to know who is coming in and out of our building. We’re probably a long way from that, but Amazon One has made it clear that this is a choice for their own convenience.
Humphrey said the Kraken and the OVG are happy with Amazon, a partner on many levels.
âOur level of trust with them is extraordinarily high,â he said. âFrom a security perspective, I don’t think you can find a more secure company in the world than Amazon.â
Amazon released the following statement:
âThe claims of (Fight for the Future) are inaccurate. Amazon One is not facial recognition technology – it’s optional technology designed to make daily activities faster and easier for customers, and users who choose to participate must make an intentional palm gesture to use the service. We understand that the way we protect customer data is important to customers – it’s also very important to us, and that’s why protecting customer privacy is a fundamental design principle for Amazon One. Amazon One devices are protected by multiple security checks and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device. Instead, the images are encrypted and sent to a highly secure area that we custom designed for Amazon One in the cloud, where we create your palm signature.
In September, Blaine Legere, senior vice president of strategy at Ax, told the Denver Business Journal that when Amazon introduced them to a palm-scan payment concept over two years ago, the ticketing provider given its potential for greater ease of access to sites. Amazon One, which launched in retail stores last year, was first used at Red Rocks on September 14 for an Alison Wonderland concert, Legere told The Journal.
Amazon candlesticks used at Red Rocks can scan a digital ticket and read a registered guest’s palm.
The Axs digital ticketing platform is already collecting information from users and integrating palm recognition hasn’t been complicated, Legere said.
Fight for the Future attempted to open a dialogue with AEG but did not receive a response, Nashashibi said.
Similar technology is prevalent in other industries.
License plate readers are widely used by law enforcement and at highway toll booths, as are cameras and facial recognition software deployed at transit terminals. As a result, some would say the cat is out of the bag on biometric technology.
âIt is absolutely worth fighting and there has been a lot of success against the spread of biometric surveillance tools,â Nashashibi said. âAbout 20 cities across the country (including Portland, Oregon) have passed legislation primarily focused on banning the use of facial recognition by law enforcement. This is something that elected officials take up and worry about.
Humphrey acknowledged that some people would oppose new technology. He said his mother, aged around 70, was afraid 10 years ago to enter her credit card information on the internet.
âNow most of his shopping is done online,â he said. âThe reality is that digital technology is here and some organizations, like us, are embracing it wholeheartedly. Other organizations are a bit slower to start. We strongly believe that it improves the fan experience and what we hear from our fans is that it speeds everything up, it makes it more dynamic and they come home happier.