Tom Morello, Anti-Flag + More Sign Open Letter Demanding Venue Drop Palm-Scanning Tech, Amazon Responds
UPDATE: An Amazon spokesperson has issued a statement in response to the open letter posed by the collective of artists and interest groups. It reads as follows: “The claims made by this organization are inaccurate. Amazon One is not a facial recognition technology – it is an optional technology designed to make daily activities faster and easier for customers, and users who choose to participate must make an intentional gesture with their palm to use the service. We understand that how we protect customer data is important to customers—this is very important to us too, and that’s why safeguarding customer privacy is a foundational design principle for Amazon One. Amazon One devices are protected by multiple security controls, and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device. Rather, the images are encrypted and sent to a highly secure area we custom-built for Amazon One in the cloud where we create your palm signature.”
The concert-going world continues to change, and one of the latest innovations is not sitting well with a number of artists and special interest groups. Tom Morello, Anti-Flag, Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna and more have signed an open letter demanding that Red Rock Amphitheater drop their usage of the new Amazon One palm scanning technology.
As is pointed out in a website accompanying the open letter, Amazon, Red Rocks, ticketing company AXS and parent company AEG have touted the technology as a mode of convenience, but the artists and groups argue that it opens the door for more biometric surveillance for corporations and governments. The device allows people to enter the venues with a scan of their palms rather than using a paper or digital ticket.
Where addresses and credit cards may change over time, a person's biometrics can't be changed, making it easier to identify and track the activities and interactions of concertgoers. The technology is already being used in certain stores, where people can pay "card-free." And Red Rocks is the first music venue that will debut the new technology for concertgoers.
It's also pointed out that this allows state agencies like DHS and police departments to systematically be able to target and surveil people of color and social activists. Plus the data collected on the palm scanners will be stores in the cloud, posing potential security vulnerabilities, according to the website. It's also suggested that the introduction of the Amazon palm scanners could lead to increased law enforcement checking of data at shows, leading to arrests and potential ICE raids at concerts. And with the biometric data pertaining to your physical self, if hacked, that information could be in the hands of hackers for your entire life.
"Live shows are supposed to be about creative expression, community, and joy. They should be places where people can feel safe and free. Join us in calling on Red Rocks Amphitheater, AXS and AEG to reject Amazon palm scanning and all forms of biometric data collection immediately. Let's fight for live event experiences – and a surveillance-free world – built around true safety for everyone," states a message on the website.
In addition to Morello, Anti-Flag and Hanna, among the other artists who have signed the petition include Mannequin Pussy, Deerhoof, Jeff Rosenstock, DIIV and more. Check out the open letter they are sending below and read more via the website here.
As human rights groups, artists, and music fans, we are calling on Red Rocks Amphitheater, AXS, and AEG Worldwide to immediately cancel all contracts with Amazon for the invasive Amazon One palm scanning technology, and ban all biometric surveillance at events and venues once and for all.
For many of us, concerts and live events are some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of our lives. The spread of biometric surveillance tools like palm scans and facial recognition now threatens to destroy that, transforming these spaces into hotspots for ICE raids, false arrests, police harassment, and stolen identities.
In 2019, over 40 of the largest US music festivals, including Burning Man, Coachella, South by Southwest and Lollapalooza, responded to activists’ demands to reject invasive facial recognition technology at their festivals.
Introducing palm scanning devices is a slap in the face to fans and artists that have fought so hard to promote safety for everyone at live events. It’s simply a matter of time before we hear of cases of palm scans misidentifying people in the ways that facial recognition has – often with violent and life altering consequences – but most concerning of all is the fact that this new technology will make the data of thousands of people vulnerable to ongoing government tracking and abuse AND malicious hackers.
AEG is one of the many companies that has taken a strong stand against the use of facial recognition at its festivals. Red Rocks, AXS and AEG must now go one step further and refuse palm scanning devices and all other forms of invasive biometric surveillance. The marginal-at-best convenience of scanning a hand instead of a ticket is no excuse for implementing technology that will exacerbate violent systems and cause harm. Our privacy, safety and lives are at stake.