Manchester City F.C. denies plans in place for facial biometrics stadium entry trial

Soccer club Manchester City of the English Premier League may not be planning to trial biometric facial recognition for stadium entry, despite earlier reports that it will use Blink Identity technology to run a voluntary fast lane for entry without showing a ticket.

A source with the team told The Guardian that the reports were premature, and that there was no plan to use facial recognition in place. The spokesperson also said the club is “open to exploring new and appropriate technologies and systems to improve fans’ experience at the stadium.”

Blink Identity won a startup competition hosted by City Football Group in July, with the prize including a pilot project opportunity. The Sunday Times reported that the team would operate a single super-fast lane allowing registered fans to walk directly into the stadium without stopping, as long as a green light indicates their faces are matched with their enrolled facial images.

“A game only lasts so long, and your ability to sell food and beverages and T-shirts is limited to that time,” Blink Identity Co-founder and CEO Mary Haskett told the Times. “So if you can get them in faster, it makes everybody happy.”

A representative of the Football Supporters’ Association, a group representing fans, Amanda Jacks, said she shares the concerns of civil rights advocates, and that her group will monitor the technology’s use, and pointed out that there does not appear to be any guidance on offer from the league or the Sports Ground Safety Authority on its use.

The proliferation of facial recognition systems on CCTV and police networks around the UK have drawn criticism, and recently an investigation from the Information Commissioner.

Haskett and co-founder Alex Kilpatrick are proposing to deliver a presentation titled “Is privacy dead? Face recognition and you” at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, Texas next year. They are participating in the final round of the presentation review and selection process this week.

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