Manchester City explores use of facial recognition tech

Manchester City’s reported plans to introduce facial recognition technology at Etihad Stadium have been questioned by human rights advocacy group Liberty, which feels the move would equate to “normalising a mass surveillance tool”.

The Times reports that the Premier League champion is working with facial recognition specialist Blink Identity to pilot the initiative, which would allow fans to access the stadium more swiftly on match days.

The initiative would see fans enter a single super-fast lane at the Etihad, with a face scan to then detect whether each individual has a ticket. If the fan has a ticket, a green light will appear and if they don’t, a yellow one will appear.

Fans would be required to take a picture of themselves and register it on the system to utilise the facial recognition technology.

Mary Haskett, co-founder and chief executive of Blink Identity, which won a recent start-up challenge launched by City, told The Times: “If you are standing in line, you’re not having fun or having a good time.

“A game only lasts so long, and your ability to sell food and beverages and T-shirts is limited to that time. So if you can get them in faster, it makes everybody happy.”

Any such scheme would appear to be some way off, with a City source telling the Guardian newspaper that reports of a pilot facial recognition programme are “premature”, with no such plan currently in place.

The source did add that City would remain “open to exploring new and appropriate technologies and systems to improve fans’ experience at the stadium”.

Facial recognition technology is viewed by some as an invasion of privacy and Hannah Couchman, Liberty’s policy and campaigns officer, believes City’s reported plans would prove intrusive.

“This is a disturbing move by Manchester City, subjecting football fans to an intrusive scan, much like taking a fingerprint, just so they can go to the Saturday game,” 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.”

Image: Cléria De Souza