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Dutch festival promoters split on face biometrics for event entry

Dutch festival promoters split on face biometrics for event entry

Dutch regulators and at least some event organizers feel biometric facial authentication is a “drastic” step to take for authenticating festivalgoers.

The technology is being used at some events and while many involved seem at least open to the idea under the right conditions, biometrics is a step too far for most, according to reporting by news publisher NRC. Local councils have blocked its use at dozens of events.

A small benefit festival for flooding victims in the Netherlands, Limburg Oet de Drup, offered attendees the option of traditional entry ID authentication — physical documents including passports — or using a facial recognition-based app developed by Compo Software.

Photos of festivalgoers submitted in the app were deleted by Compo’s system after 1,024-vector face maps made from the pictures were encrypted. The biometric templates, assigned a random number, were reportedly stored in a Netherlands facility, according to the NRC account.

Not even Compo can link the numbered files to the original person. And after authentication is complete, at a festival gate for instance, the proof scan is deleted, according to the publication.

About a third of the 2,000 people who showed up for the shows chose face biometrics, according to NRC. An executive with the festival organizer, Sjeng Kraft Kompenei, told the publication that entry for those people was significantly faster than for those who opted for gates where they scanned a QR code and employees checked IDs.

NRC said Sjeng Kraft was impressed with its experience and will deploy some level of face biometric authentication at an upcoming 17,000-fan event.

An executive with Compo Software told NRC that there were 25 events this year where facial recognition or authentication could have been used, but local government leaders raised what the executive implied were ill-informed objections.

A manager with events organizer Mojo Concerts told NRC that facial authentication does not contribute enough in terms of managing events and making them safe to use the technology, as face scans at entertainment events are unpleasant.

Five other entertainment organizations told the publication that they either do not or have no intention of using biometrics.

The Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens) is ambivalent at best on the matter. Officials issued a release on 29 October under the headline “Beware of Face Recognition Cameras.”

In the memo, the authority, an independent regulator, notes that under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, it is legal to scan fingers, faces, irises and voices in two scenarios.

First, subjects must give explicit permission to be scanned. That was followed during the Limburg festival.

The second is subjective, and it was not invoked during the event. Biometric authentication is legal if there is substantial public interest. That can be read as in the interest of public safety.

Small events, at least at this point, fly under that radar, and the Dutch government does not demand the use of biometrics.

However, it has been deployed at bigger events in other nations, a trend that continues. Face biometrics were used recently at the Olympic Games and the World Cup.

And the technology’s potential is very seductive. It appears that some researchers in the Netherlands, have fallen victim to it. There is no obvious reason that government officials might not similarly go along with broader use of facial recognition.

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