Another Australian Stadium Adopts Facial Recognition Technology

13 March 2024 | 11:19 am | Christie Eliezer

With 15,000 seats, the Adelaide venue can hold 16,500 for sports events and up to 26,000 for outdoor concerts. The last act to play there was the Foo Fighters.

Billie Eilish @ Qudos Bank Arena

Billie Eilish @ Qudos Bank Arena (Credit: Matty Vogel)

Like their overseas counterparts, many Australian musicians have expressed concern about music venues that use facial recognition technology (FTR). 

They claim it infringes on privacy, increases discrimination, and is inaccurate. They allege that it often makes errors when screening people with darker skin or those with disabilities. Privacy advocates have raised countless concerns about how this kind of biometric data is stored and used.

In 2018, freedom of information data found that the London Metropolitan Police Force's use of facial recognition returned false positives in more than 98 per cent of alerts generated. A Harvard University study reported that women of colour were 34 per cent more likely to be inaccurately identified than men with lighter skin.

Last week, Adelaide’s Coopers Stadium announced it began using the technology on March 9. With 15,000 seats, it can hold 16,500 for sports events and up to 26,000 for outdoor concerts. The last act to play there was the Foo Fighters.

“We want all fans, no matter who they support, to have a positive, fun and safe day out,” said Martin Radcliffe, CEO of Adelaide Venue Management Corporation, which also runs the neighbouring Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

Coopers Stadium is the sixth Australian stadium to adopt the technology. The others are Melbourne’s AAMI Park and Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney’s Allianz Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground, and Qudos Bank Arena. According to their privacy policies, Perth’s RAC Arena and Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium could also use it.

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The stadiums say the technology is utilised to detect crowd members who have been banned because they’ve caused trouble.

It’s not just venues. Taylor Swift got her security to use it at American shows to detect a stalker.



But the latest adoption in Australia—where facial recognition technology is legal—recalled controversy that erupted overseas over its use.

Last June, over 100 US music acts signed a pledge to boycott stadiums, arenas and clubs that use it. 

The sign-ups included Tom Morello, Zack de la Rocha, Amanda Palmer, Boots Riley, Wheatus, Speedy Ortiz, Downtown Boys, War On Women and DIIV.

The petition was the work of digital rights advocacy group Fight For The Future. It stated, “This invasive biometric surveillance isn’t safe, especially for Black and brown people who have been falsely arrested or ejected from public places due to the tech’s baked-in discrimination.

“In recent years, a coalition of musicians, fans, and human rights groups successfully got more than 40 of the world’s largest music festivals, including Bonnaroo and Coachella, to say they won’t use facial recognition at events. 

“But now this tech is starting to spread — not only as a surveillance tool but also as a form of ‘paperless’ ticketing and payment.”

How the technology could be misused for petty reasons came to light after two incidents at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Security used tech to find lawyers working for firms that were suing the venue on behalf of their clients and threw them out.

At the time, venue owners confirmed the tactic, saying: “MSG instituted a straightforward policy that precludes attorneys from firms pursuing active litigation against the Company from attending events at our venues until that litigation has been resolved.”



FTR is banned by the European Union, as have American cities as San Francisco, Oakland in California; and Somerville and Brookline in Massachusetts. Last year, Illinois banned its use of drones, and New Hampshire is considering it.

The Australian Government is looking at reviewing it. Civil groups have urged Attorney General Mark Dreyfus to adopt a model law drafted in 2022 by the Human Technology Institute in Sydney.

It places obligations on companies that develop or use face-screening, as well as sectors that use them, including police and employers. It demands the technology’s use be transparent, accentuate human rights and strike the right balance.

In February 2023, Dreyfus’ Privacy Act Review endorsed it in principle.

The global FTR market is expected to more than double from US$3.8 billion in 2020 to $8.5 billion in 2025. Millions of dollars are being invested in start-ups, even in systems said to infringe on human rights in the Middle East and China.

In Australia, consumer rights group CHOICE criticised the early use of technology at concerts and sports events for how the venues never advised customers of its use but slipped it into its private policy clauses, which, of course, no one bothered to read.

Coopers Stadium made sure that it wouldn’t be accused of this by issuing a media release announcing its use.