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30,000 Unsuspecting Rose Bowl Attendees Were Scooped Up in a Facial Recognition Test

On New Year’s Day 2020, more than 90,000 college football fans piled into the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, to watch the Oregon Ducks play the Wisconsin Badgers. It turns out some of those fans were being watched, too. From a report: Before they even entered the stadium, thousands of attendees were being captured by a facial recognition system in the Rose Bowl’s FanFest activity area by an ad tech company called VSBLTY. Four cameras hidden underneath digital signs captured data on attendees, generating 30,000 points of data on how long they looked at advertisements, their gender and age, and an analysis to try and identify weapons or whether they were on a watch list of suspicious persons. Three fans who attended the Rose Bowl game and spoke to OneZero said they didn’t remember seeing any notice that they were being surveilled.

[…] The data gathering and surveillance operation has not been reported in the mainstream press before and was revealed after VSBLTY issued a press release of its findings. Neither VSBLTY nor the Rose Bowl Stadium responded to multiple requests for comment or questions about how data was gathered, whether fans were informed, and where the watch list of suspicious persons came from. “Facts about fans, their habits and actions — in addition to demographic and psychographic information — will help plan audience activities as well as serve as a tool to validate the value of on-site advertising impressions to sponsors,” wrote Jay Hutton, VSBLTY’s CEO. VSBLTY is a small, Philadelphia-based company that anticipates generating $15 million to $20 million in revenue in 2020, according to a company slide deck targeted at investors reviewed by OneZero. The company has fewer than 50 employees according to LinkedIn data. Despite its relatively small size, the company has contracts around the world, including conducting real-time facial recognition in Mexico City through a partnership with intelligent lighting company Energetika.

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