Musicians—Like Tom Morello, Kathleen Hanna, and More—Are Raising Concerns Over Amazon’s Biometric ID Technology at Venues

Every year, thousands of fans travel from all around the world to attend shows at one of the most beloved venues in music history: Red Rocks Amphitheater, just outside of Denver, Colorado. Known for its stunning views and equally stunning acoustics, the 9,500-seater has been home to countless legendary shows since it first opened its doors in the early 20th century.

But now, musicians like Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna, and more are raising concerns over new palm-scanning ID technology being implemented at the venue by Amazon. This past September, ticketing company AXS and its parent company AEG Worldwide announced the deal with Amazon One Palm Recognition service, with the intention of using Red Rocks as a launching point to integrating the technology nationwide. 

“We are calling on Red Rocks Amphitheater, AXS, and AEG Worldwide to immediately cancel all contracts with Amazon for the invasive Amazon One palm scanning technology, and ban all biometric surveillance at events and venues once and for all,” an open letter, signed by the artists, human rights groups and music fans, read. “For many of us, concerts and live events are some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of our lives. The spread of biometric surveillance tools like palm scans and facial recognition now threatens to destroy that, transforming these spaces into hotspots for ICE raids, false arrests, police harassment, and stolen identities.”

Joining Morello and Hanna on the open letter’s list of signers are names like Speedy Ortiz, Deerhoof, Mannequin Pussy, Jeff Rosenstock, Amanda Palmer, Anjimile, illuminati hotties, DIIV, AJJ, and more. Also on the list of signers are a number of political organizations, like the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, 18 Million Rising, and Fight For The Future, the latter of which orchestrated the letter.

“Introducing palm scanning devices is a slap in the face to fans and artists that have fought so hard to promote safety for everyone at live events,” the letter continues. “It’s simply a matter of time before we hear of cases of palm scans misidentifying people in the ways that facial recognition has—often with violent and life-altering consequences—but most concerning of all is the fact that this new technology will make the data of thousands of people vulnerable to ongoing government tracking and abuse AND malicious hackers.”

In response, Amazon made an attempt to clarify their intentions in a statement given to Rolling Stone. “Amazon One is not a facial recognition technology—it is an optional technology designed to make daily activities faster and easier for customers, and users who choose to participate must make an intentional gesture with their palm to use the service,” a spokesperson said. “We understand that how we protect customer data is important to customers—this is very important to us too, and that’s why safeguarding customer privacy is a foundational design principle for Amazon One. Amazon One devices are protected by multiple security controls, and palm images are never stored on the Amazon One device. Rather, the images are encrypted and sent to a highly secure area we custom-built for Amazon One in the cloud where we create your palm signature.”

Yet, Amazon’s claims that cloud storage acts as a safeguard against any malicious use of the collected data is another thing directly addressed by the artists’ movement. “Unlike face and fingerprint scans on phones, the data collected through the Amazon One palm scanners will be stored in the cloud (as opposed to on someone’s individual device), posing unique and well-documented security vulnerabilities,” a statement on the website reads. “Regardless of what Amazon says about the safety of the data and its privacy policies, at the end of the day, government agencies—and hackers—consistently access data collected by corporations if they want to badly enough.”

To that end, Amazon doesn’t have an exactly “stellar” track record when it comes to what they do with the massive amounts of data they collect daily. In just 2020 alone, the company had to take action on two different occasions because of employees unethically accessing—and, in one case, leaking to an unknown third party—customers’ sensitive info.

For more information on the artist-driven campaign against biometric ID technology, check out the open letter and its corresponding website HERE or read the letter’s body in full below:


As human rights groups, artists, and music fans, we are calling on Red Rocks Amphitheater, AXS, and AEG Worldwide to immediately cancel all contracts with Amazon for the invasive Amazon One palm scanning technology, and ban all biometric surveillance at events and venues once and for all.

For many of us, concerts and live events are some of the most memorable and enjoyable experiences of our lives. The spread of biometric surveillance tools like palm scans and facial recognition now threatens to destroy that, transforming these spaces into hotspots for ICE raids, false arrests, police harassment, and stolen identities.

In 2019, over 40 of the largest US music festivals, including Burning Man, Coachella, South by Southwest, and Lollapalooza, responded to activists’ demands to reject invasive facial recognition technology at their festivals. 

Introducing palm scanning devices is a slap in the face to fans and artists that have fought so hard to promote safety for everyone at live events. It’s simply a matter of time before we hear of cases of palm scans misidentifying people in the ways that facial recognition has – often with violent and life-altering consequences – but most concerning of all is the fact that this new technology will make the data of thousands of people vulnerable to ongoing government tracking and abuse AND malicious hackers. 

AEG is one of the many companies that has taken a strong stand against the use of facial recognition at its festivals. Red Rocks, AXS, and AEG must now go one step further and refuse palm scanning devices and all other forms of invasive biometric surveillance. The marginal-at-best convenience of scanning a hand instead of a ticket is no excuse for implementing technology that will exacerbate violent systems and cause harm. Our privacy, safety and lives are at stake. 

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