Data privacy concerns might have put facial recognition software under close scrutiny from the regulators but, over at Manchester City FC at least, it could prove a crowd pleaser following the club’s decision to test the technology in an effort to cut queuing times at the turnstiles.
The Premier League club has appointed Texas-based Blink Identity to install the software as part of a pilot which will allow fans to enter the ground by simply showing their faces to a camera.
Initially, there will be one superfast track into the 55,000-seater Ethiad Stadium, which will scan fans’ faces to ensure they have a ticket and then let them straight in. All fans have to do is register by taking a selfie on their mobile phone and send it in.
Blink Identity co-founder and chief executive Mary Haskett claims the scheme will not only help combat ticket-swapping and season ticket hand-ons but it will also boost fans’ enjoyment and even help commercial income by giving supporters more time in the ground.
She said: “If [fans] are standing in line, they’re not having a good time. A game only lasts so long and [the club’s] ability to sell food, beverages and T-shirts is limited to that time. So if you can get them in faster, everybody is happy.”
Whether the Information Commissioner’s Office will be so chuffed remains to be seen. Last week, the regulator launched an inquiry into facial recognition software following claims the technology in place at the 67-acre King’s Cross Central site – home to King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, as well as restaurants, shops and cafés – is riding roughshod over consumers’ privacy.
UPDATE: Human rights group Liberty has warned Manchester City against introducing facial recognition technology, claiming it will “normalise a mass surveillance tool”.
The organisation, which has called it a “disturbing move”, suggests the scheme subjects football fans to intrusive scans just so they can watch a football game. It is also concerned about Texas-based Blink Identity.
Liberty policy and campaigns officer Hannah Couchman told The Guardian: “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.”
ICO launches major probe into facial recognition tech
Man City global platform to ramp up fan engagement
Chelsea FC strikes digital experience deal with Ericsson
Man City hunts glory off the pitch with VR fan hub
Top football clubs unite for exclusive content hub