Aug 29, 2023 - Sports

Phillies pilot facial recognition entry at Citizens Bank Park

illustration of a facial recognition system

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Phillies fans could face a dilemma that pits convenience against privacy next time they visit Citizens Bank Park.

Driving the news: The team rolled out a new facial-recognition pilot program last week at the park's first base gate that's intended to speed up wait times and get fans inside the stadium sooner.

Yes, but: Some critics are skeptical of the technology, citing ethics concerns about data storage and questions about facial recognition bias, per Billy Penn.

The intrigue: The "Go-Ahead Entry" technology faced glitches when it debuted at Citizens Bank Park on Aug. 22, picking up the faces of other fans who were waiting in line.

  • The mishap caused delays and forced attendants to create a buffer zone for the scanner, per Billy Penn.

How it works: Ticket holders who are 18+ can opt into the service. They must upload a selfie to the MLB Ballpark app that's then assigned a numeral token before being deleted.

  • The faces of Phillies fans are scanned and then matched to the stored numerical token, allowing them to enter the ballpark.
  • If you're part of a big group, only one person needs to register on the app, and their facial scan will allow everyone to get in.

Zoom out: MLB and the Phillies worked for more than two years to develop the program, the Sports Business Journal reports.

  • It's used in several stadiums across the country, including New York, Cleveland and San Diego, per Slate.
  • Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan has been criticized for using the technology to ban attorneys representing people who sued the venue.

What we're watching: The Phillies haven't said whether they'll expand use of the program once the pilot is over.


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