The kiosk set up at the site of Taylor Swift’s Rose Bowl concert in May stopped many fans in their tracks, and they came in closer for a look. It showed rehearsal clips and other highlights of the singer performing. But what wasn’t immediately apparent was the fact that while her fans were watching the kiosk, the kiosk was watching them back.
Embedded in the kiosk, unbeknownst to fans, was facial recognition technology which was being monitored from a few thousand miles away, in Nashville. The real purpose of the setup was for the singer’s security team to track her stalkers, which number in the hundreds. “Everybody who went by would stop and stare at it, and the software would start working.” That’s according to Mike Downing, chief security officer of Oak View Group, which advises concert venues, as reported by Rolling Stone.
It might sound like an extreme step for the pop star to take, but most people might not be aware that so many creeps stalk her that it became the subject of an article in the journal Psychology Today in October. Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah St. Vincent told Slate that people should be informed when technology is capturing their images in this way, which is of course a legitimate concern for the general public but would have defeated the whole point of trying to quietly keep an eye on creeps and stalkers who could become a problem at Taylor’s show.
And this, by the way, gives you an idea of the kind of thing Taylor’s team was trying to protect her from. Various news accounts paint a disturbing picture of some of her many stalkers, including one she got a restraining order against who’d been sending her threatening letters. Another was arrested outside her Beverly Hills home with a knife in his car as well as a mask.
While Taylor’s team had a specific use case in mind related to this facial recognition tech, her usage also makes it timely to point out that concertgoers are actually going to be confronted with this kind of thing more and more, whether they realize it or not. The Verge reported earlier this year that the entity known as Live Nation Entertainment (which includes Ticketmaster and Live Nation) has invested in a company called Blink Identity. This company claims the ability to use its technology to scan and identify people walking by in half a second, without even needing the person to stop or look into a camera.
Presumably, this kind of thing would be useful for crowd control and allowing people to just stream into a concert arena. Of course, the thing you give up for this kind of convenience? Yet another piece of your anonymity.