NHL teams considering facial recognition to boost security
The National Hockey League and some of its 31 teams are in talks with various companies looking to supply high-definition cameras and facial recognition software in league arenas, according to a report by TSN.
An unnamed senior executive with one NHL team believes that facial recognition technology will be deployed by his team and others in the NHL within the next couple years.
“One of the reasons we haven’t seen this adopted is because we’ve been lucky,” the executive said. “We’ve seen attacks at concerts, at the Boston Marathon, at the Olympics, and at international soccer games. If there was an incident at a hockey game, this is something that would have already happened in the NHL.”
In light of professional sports leagues realize that they are increasingly becoming terrorist targets, the NHL has been discussing a league-wide security review that would potentially help to reduce the league’s financial exposure in the event that an NHL game experienced a terrorist attack.
Peter Trepp, CEO of facial recognition technology developer FaceFirst Inc., confirmed he has met with the NHL in the past month.
However, Trepp declined to specify when he met with the NHL or whether any teams are currently using FaceFirst’s technology. Instead, he said his firm has only recently targeted clients in the sports sector in the past six months.
Colosseo USA has also met with the NHL and the Washington Capitals to pitch its facial recognition products, said company spokesman Matt Bocko.
In North America, privacy legislation differs in Canadian provinces and U.S. states. As a result, NHL teams would be given different levels of access to databases maintained by local law enforcement, national police services such as the RCMP, and international law enforcement like Interpol.
“We have not and do not release this information to any private companies or sports teams for the purpose of facial recognition,” Toronto Police Services Constable Craig Brister said. “There are laws in place that provide strict and specific guidelines for how we use this type of information.”
Trepp said that FaceFirst is generating its own “watch list,” using data acquired from several local U.S. and European law enforcement groups and agencies such as Interpol.
Interpol’s press office emphasized that they do not share information from their database with any companies.
“Only law enforcement agencies can access Interpol’s facial recognition database, which was launched in 2016,” an Interpol spokesperson said. “Interpol does not work with this company in any manner, nor do we provide them with any images. It is possible that this statement means the company uses images of nationally wanted persons which can be found on Interpol’s public website.”
Trepp said that NHL teams could eventually build their own database of troublemakers and banned spectators, as well as use facial biometrics to identify VIPs and season-ticket holders to expedite their entry.
NHL officials are also looking to obtain a special designation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that would prevent the league and its teams from being liable for honoring insurance claims that could be filed by victims and their families if an NHL game were ever attacked by terrorists. The review would take about a year, said a person familiar with the matter.
Last month, a few executives from the NHL and the Florida Panthers met with Prevent Advisors to discuss a potential review of NHL rinks, which would cost about $300,000, said a person familiar with the meeting.
NHL officials have shared details of the meeting with at least a handful of NHL team officials, which confirmed the review would explore how the league could improve security.
These improvements would include an analysis of the number of armed guards at games, potential choke points, the effectiveness of security staff using metal detectors, and how diligently the staff monitors security in lower-profile arena locations.