Over 100 artists, including the renowned co-founders of Rage Against the Machine, Tom Morello and Zack de la Rocha, along with Boots Riley and Speedy Ortiz, have made a powerful and unified statement by announcing their boycott of concert venues that implement facial recognition technology. The artists have expressed concerns about privacy infringement and the potential for increased discrimination, leading them to take a stand against the use of this controversial technology. The boycott, organized by the digital rights advocacy group Fight for the Future, aims to ban facial recognition technology from all live events. Their call to action has gained support from numerous independent concert venues across the country.
Facial recognition technology has become a topic of heated debate, igniting discussions about privacy and civil liberties. Artists from various musical genres have joined forces to highlight the perceived risks outweighing the benefits associated with facial recognition. Notable musicians such as Anti-Flag, Wheatus, Downtown Boys, and many others have lent their voices to this cause, emphasizing the significance of the issue within the music community. The extensive list of signatories includes these artists and can be found here.
Leila Nashashibi, a passionate campaigner at Fight for the Future, has strongly denounced the narratives presented by surveillance technology companies. These companies often portray biometric data tools as innovative solutions that enhance efficiency and security. However, Nashashibi argues that these claims are not only unfounded but also morally corrupt. She points out the inherent inaccuracies of facial recognition technology, which can lead to misidentification and technical faults. Furthermore, Nashashibi warns against a dystopian future where flawless facial recognition becomes the norm, eroding privacy and subjecting individuals to constant identification, surveillance, and scrutiny.
Recent controversies surrounding the use of facial recognition technology in concert venues have heightened concerns about its potential misuse. Madison Square Garden Entertainment and its chairman, James Dolan, faced intense scrutiny after utilizing facial recognition technology to remove lawyers associated with ongoing lawsuits against the company. Incidents like these, which occurred at prominent venues like Madison Square Garden Concert and Radio City Music Hall, have raised serious questions about the abuse of power facilitated by facial recognition technology.
Barbara Hart, an attorney involved in one such incident, describes this behavior as an extension of bullying tactics empowered by the use of this technology. She expresses deep concern and astonishment at the arbitrary actions of the venue, raising important questions about the boundaries of such power.
In response to the controversies surrounding facial recognition technology in venues, New York Attorney General Letitia James initiated an investigation into Madison Square Garden’s use of the technology, urging the company to reconsider its policy. Additionally, several New York lawmakers staged a protest against the venue’s actions in January. The State Liquor Authority of New York even took steps to revoke MSG’s liquor license due to these controversies. While Madison Square Garden took legal action against the decision, the company remains firm in its position of excluding lawyers involved in litigation against them, justifying it as necessary to maintain a non-adversarial environment.
While Madison Square Garden has garnered significant media attention due to its questionable use of facial recognition technology, it is important to note that other venues across the country have also experimented with similar technology. Notable venues such as Citi Field in New York, FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, and the Pechanga Arena in San Diego have implemented face-scanning systems. It is within this broader context that Tom Morello, Zack de la Rocha, Boots Riley, and other artists have taken a stand against this invasive technology, leveraging their influence to advocate for change.
The artists supporting the boycott argue that the potential risks associated with facial recognition technology far outweigh its benefits. They contend that biometric technology compromises privacy rights and exacerbates discrimination, particularly against marginalized groups such as people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Their collective effort emphasizes the need for comprehensive regulation and responsible usage of biometric data tools, not only in live concert venues but in all spheres of society. The boycott serves as a powerful statement, advocating for an environment that respects privacy and promotes inclusivity.
Tom Morello, Zack de la Rocha, Boots Riley, and the numerous artists supporting the boycott against facial recognition technology have boldly demonstrated their commitment to protecting privacy and promoting equality. By leveraging their influence, they have shed light on the ethical implications of facial recognition technology within live concert venues. Their voices serve as a call to action for comprehensive reforms and responsible technological integration. As society continues to grapple with the challenges posed by emerging technologies, it is essential to navigate this new landscape with a strong emphasis on individual rights, social justice, and inclusivity.