Manchester City face calls to reconsider facial recognition tech | Technology

Manchester City has been urged to reconsider introducing facial recognition technology that risks “normalising a mass surveillance tool” by a civil rights group.

The Premier League winners are considering introducing controversial technology that means fans will be granted access by showing their faces instead of tickets, according to the Sunday Times.

The Etihad stadium could install a super-fast lane for supporters with a traffic light system to show who has passed the face scan. If someone is recognised as having a ticket, they would be ushered in by a green light. If not, they would be halted with a yellow one.

Hannah Couchman, the policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said: “This is a disturbing move by Manchester City – subjecting football fans to an intrusive scan, much like taking a fingerprint, just so they can go to the Saturday game.

“It’s alarming that fans will be sharing deeply sensitive personal information with a private company that boasts about collecting and sharing data on each person that walks through the gate – and using this to deny people entry.

“Manchester City should urgently reconsider their involvement in normalising a mass surveillance tool which can track and monitor us as we go about our everyday lives.”

The Texas-based facial recognition company, Blink Identity, says its technology can identify people walking at regular speed, so fans will not need to slow down to show a ticket or use a turnstile.

To opt in, supporters would need to register a selfie taken on their mobile phone. Blink Identity says it’s also possible to “collect usable and sharable data” on every person that walks through its facial scanning software.

The team behind Blink Identity has spent the last decade creating large scale biometric identification systems in the Middle East for the US department of defense, according to its website. Last year, Live Nation, the company that owns Ticketmaster, announced investment in Blink Identity as part of plans to replace paper tickets with facial recognition.

A source at Manchester City said that reports of a pilot facial recognition scheme were premature, andthere was no such plan in place. They added that the club would always be “open to exploring new and appropriate technologies and systems to improve fans’ experience at the stadium”.

Amanda Jacks, a caseworker at the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), an organisation that represents football fans, said that she shares the concerns of civil liberties organisations regarding the necessity of facial recognition technology. She saidthe FSA will be monitoring how it is used.

She added: “Given fans will still have to be searched before entering any stadium, and the technology is apparently only fractionally faster that electronic card readers, it’s difficult to see how this is genuinely an improvement on the current system.

“Notably, and to the best of our knowledge, there is no formal guidance from the Premier League or Sports Ground Safety Authority on the use of this technology.”

Reports of the pilots come as privacy campaigners warned of an “epidemic” of facial recognition use in private spaces around the UK on Friday.

An investigation by Big Brother Watch, which tracks the use of surveillance, found that property developers, shopping centres, museums, conference centres and casinos are using the technology.

The Observer reported that some police forces are pushing back at Home Office proposals to introduce facial recognition schemes.

Last week, the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, announced an investigation into the use of facial recognition in a new shopping development in Kings Cross, central London and last month, the parliamentary science and technology committee said authorities should halt trials of facial recognition technology until a legal framework was established.

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