Amazon doesn’t rock, artists and others say, in call to reject palm-scanning tech at Red Rocks venue

An illustration on the website of a group calling for Red Rocks Amphitheater near Denver to cancel use of Amazon palm-scanning technology. (Screenshot via amazondoesntrock.com)

“Put your hands in the air, wave ’em like you just don’t care!” someone said, somewhere, once. But musicians and human rights groups do care and are speaking up about hands being waved over Amazon’s palm-scanning technology at a famed venue in Colorado.

Hundreds of artists and some 30 organizations are calling on Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver to cancel all contracts and use of Amazon One scanners for entry into events. A website called AmazonDoesntRock.com has been set up to share the collective group’s concerns about biometric screening technology.

The effort is being spearheaded by Fight for the Future, an advocacy group that says it channels internet outrage into political power to win public interest victories.

Musicians, organizations and fans are being asked to sign a letter directed at Red Rocks, concert promoter AEG Worldwide and its ticketing group AXS to stop the use of the tech, saying that “the spread of biometric surveillance tools like palm scans and facial recognition [transforms venues] into hotspots for ICE raids, false arrests, police harassment, and stolen identities.”

Amazon and AEG announced in September that Amazon One was coming to Red Rocks as a way for fans to connect their palm data to a ticketing account and speed entry into the amphitheater.

Todd Humphrey, SVP of fan experience for the Seattle Kraken, scans his palm to enter Big Chicken, a store that uses Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Amazon One first debuted in September 2020 as an entry and payment method at Amazon Go convenience stores in Seattle. It has since been added to additional Go stores and other locations, such as Amazon Go Grocery and Amazon Books, as well as a Whole Foods store in Seattle.

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Amazon is also making a push to get the tech into concert venues and stadiums. The new Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle features four food stores which allow for palm scanning as an entry and payment method. The stores feature Amazon’s broader “Just Walk Out” technology that is intended to get fans in and out and back to seats quicker.

Amazon One works by scanning the palms of participating customers, giving them an alternative to the regular process of using a QR code in an app to check in or another method to pay and check out. It takes less than a minute to sign up and connect your palm to your credit card at Climate Pledge, for instance.

Musicians who have signed on to the complaint include Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, among others.

“Thousands visit Red Rocks every month to experience amazing performances, not to be part of some dangerous biometric surveillance experiment,” Siena Mann, campaign manager for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said in a news release. “Amazon using the guise of convenience to convince droves of concert-goers to offer up their biometric data is twisted, disturbing, and unacceptable. Simply put, palm scans and other forms of biometric data collection, like facial recognition, are tools of state violence.”

Update, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. PT: An Amazon spokesperson provided the following statement to GeekWire about the protest:

“The claims made by this organization are inaccurate. 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. 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.”

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