By now, we should know that Taylor Swift is willing to go as far as necessary to keep her private life, well, private (after all, she did allegedly travel inside a suitcase to avoid paparazzi). Now, the pop star is apparently using facial-recognition technology at her concerts to track down stalkers.
As reported by Rolling Stone, during a Pasadena concert, kiosks disguised a facial-recognition camera inside an activation that displayed some highlights from Swift’s Reputation tour rehearsals. The show took place on May 18 and saw Swift take the stage alongside Shawn Mendes in front of 60,000 attendees (as she commemorated shortly after on Instagram).
A concert security expert who attended the concert to see a demo of the system as a guest of the manufacturer of the kiosks told Rolling Stone that the purpose of the system was to track whether any of Swift’s stalkers would be in attendance. As soon as any concertgoer stepped into the booth, their photo was taken and simultaneously transferred to a “command post” located in Nashville to be “cross-referenced with a database of hundreds of the pop star’s known stalkers,” the expert said. Taylor’s representatives did not respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.
The use of this type of software at concerts and in other performance venues is, in fact, on the rise and could become commonplace in the not-so-distant future. Ticketing giant Ticketmaster recently invested in a startup called Blink Identity, which reportedly has technology that can identify people simply walking past a kiosk—in a likely effort to “help fans move through turnstiles more efficiently,” Rolling Stone reported. These measures are not being rolled out lightly; as Ticketmaster told the magazine, “We’re just being very careful about where and how we implement it.”
The premise of watching some unseen rehearsal footage would obviously attract any Swift fan, but how many would have chosen to go in had they known their information was being captured? As The Verge points out, Swift and the venue do technically have the right to carry out these security measures if deemed necessary, since the concert is considered a private event. But using the tech without concertgoer consent raises questions about how privacy works and what happens to stored information after the show.
It’s a conundrum already being debated in the courts: In April, for example, a federal judge in California ruled that Facebook can be sued in a potentially multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit precisely for the nonconsensual use of its own facial-recognition software, which the suit claims violated Illinois’s Biometric Information Privacy Act, requiring written consent in order to gather biometric information—including facial recognition. In a statement at the time, Facebook said it was reviewing the ruling. “We continue to believe the case has no merit and will defend ourselves vigorously,” the company said.