It’s a bad look: facial recognition at major concert and sporting venues.

Families turning up for Disney on Ice for a day out at one of Australia’s largest entertainment venues probably wouldn’t expect their images and data to be recorded by facial recognition technology.

But it’s an increasingly normal practice happening covertly at major concert and sporting venues.

Leading Australian venues allow for facial recognition, often without people’s knowledge or consent, according to an investigation by consumer advocate group CHOICE.

After scrutinising the privacy policies and conditions of entry statements of 10 stadiums and stadium operators, many were found to use the technology without providing information on where and how it is used.

Consumer data advocate Kate Bower said the lack of clarity on where, how and why the technology was being used was extremely concerning.

“We’re particularly worried about Qudos Bank Arena, owned by Ticketek’s parent company TEG – one of the biggest players in the Australian data broking space,” she said.

Ms Bower said TEG was not clear on how and why it collected and used facial recognition data, “leaving the door open for harmful selling and sharing of sensitive biometric information”.

The Qudos arena at Sydney Olympic Park can hold up to 21,000 people and will host a number of big events this year, including international artists Lizzo, Sam Smith and Disney on Ice.

“The amount of biometric data that potentially could be collected, stored and shared by TEG just in 2023 is massive,” Ms Bower said.

Qudos says it alerts attendees to the use of facial recognition through digital signs and in its conditions of entry.

But consumer advocate groups argue the signs are hard to find, difficult to read and would take an average reader more than 12 minutes to get through.

The signs also don’t mention how the information is stored, shared or used.

Ms Bower called for stronger regulation of facial recognition technology and clear guidelines to ensure its safe and responsible use.

“Stadiums are places where many people, including children, gather to have fun and make memories,” she said.

“If facial recognition is being used in these venues, people should have the choice to opt in or out.

“Instead, any details regarding the use of this technology are usually buried deep in a privacy policy or conditions of entry.”

Two major Australian retailers are being investigated by the privacy watchdog for their use of facial recognition technology in stores.

Kmart and Bunnings used the technology to capture images of the faces of shoppers and store unique “faceprints” without the knowledge or consent of customers.

The retailers say facial recognition protects shoppers and staff, combats anti-social behaviour and reduces theft.

But the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner voiced concerns last year over the companies’ personal information handling practices.


Samantha Lock
(Australian Associated Press)


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