Skip to main content

Your Thumbprint or Selfie Can Be Used to Get Into a Football Game Faster

The use of biometrics to scan a fingerprint instead of a ticket is becoming more popular, but raises privacy concerns.
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

A growing number of sports teams and venues are bypassing paper and even mobile tickets and asking fans to enter via a facial or fingerprint scan to speed up the process.

Why Sports Teams Like Facial Recognition

Stadiums across the U.S. now take facial scans of sports lovers to enter a football game, including the National Football League, the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium, Atlanta Falcons at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High.

Fans of the Cleveland Browns stand in front of an iPad that allows multiple tickets for one transaction.

Major League Baseball has opted for fingerprint scans via Clear and, while soccer fans can also swipe their fingerprints at the Los Angeles Football Club at the Banc of California Stadium and the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium.

While the use of biometrics, including facial recognition, is rising, it raises the issue of privacy concerns and how companies are storing your personal data.

Fans Can Avoid Waiting

Biometrics is mostly being used to bypass traditional check-ins and the selling point for ticket holders is saving time. The basic idea is that you can sign in with your face and skip the long lines, says Alex Hamerstone, advisory solutions director at TrustedSec, a Fairlawn, Ohio-based ethical hacking and cyber incident response company.

The venues will have to test out scanning someone’s face or fingerprint to see how well it works and how willing fans are to use it.

“I imagine there will be a significant percentage of people who won’t want to share that kind of personal information, particularly since this raises some obvious fears about surveillance,” he said.

Venues will have backup options to account for guests leaving and then coming back, children and friends who attend a game with them, and people who don’t want to do biometrics.

Biometrics replaces the barcode or QR code with a person's faceprint, retina print, or fingerprints to look up the code in a database, Casey Ellis, CTO at Bugcrowd, a San Francisco-based leader in crowdsourced cybersecurity, told TheStreet.

Some people will never consent to checking into a football or baseball game by giving up their fingerprint, Karim Hijazi, CEO of Prevailion, a Houston-based cyber intelligence company, told TheStreet.

While people are used to submitting to invasive checks at the airport, the same level of consent will not be given just to go to a concert or a ball game.

“Even if this rolls out smoothly at first, all it takes is one incident or for some other issue to become politicized and then spread to other issues like biometrics and venues will have a revolt on their hands,” he said.

Venues will need to combine biometrics with some other traditional means of check-in such as physical tickets, stickers, stamps, or wristbands, Hijazi said.

“In that case, it wouldn’t be hard to deal with issues like a ticketholder’s guest who leaves and then tries to come back but doesn’t have his biometrics registered,” he said. “More than likely, it will be a combined approach.”

Biometrics are also being used to identify every fan who enters stadiums and prevent unauthorized entry by individuals who have committed an offense in the past in Mexico.

Incode partnered with Orlegi Sports to offer facial recognition and tickets to several soccer stadiums in Mexico, removing the fumble factor at the entrance, providing a convenient and hygienic entry because of the contactless interactions.

Ricardo Amper, CEO at Incode, a San Francisco-based provider of identity verification and authentication solutions, told TheStreet,“Identity verification solutions are being used primarily to enhance the safety of fans and families who come to the stadiums."

“At the stadium, the fan presents the Incode Fan ID and without an internet connection required, our technology validates that the person is the same as the Fan ID presented,” Amper said.

What Sports Stadiums Do With Your Fingerprint

Facial recognition systems need to be controlled tightly to avoid major security issues.

“It must be an all-or-nothing, closed loop system initially, only offering it to season ticket holders and requiring separate entrances versus traditional tickets,” Bud Broomhead, CEO at Viakoo, a Mountain View, Calif.-based provider of automated IoT cyber hygiene, told TheStreet.

Software companies do keep your data. Clear store biometric data since it will be reused across multiple locations such as airports, stadiums, and other venues.

“The organization holding or using biometric data will need to have auditable processes and standards to ensure that the sensitive data is protected,” he said.

Preventing the hacking of biometric data is critical and the service provider needs to use a zero-knowledge security model with full end-to-end encryption, Darren Guccione, CEO at Keeper Security, a Chicago-based provider of zero-trust and zero-knowledge cybersecurity software, told TheStreet.

“Biometric authentication is a technology that will continue to proliferate across a multitude of industries and use cases,” he said. “When used as a single factor such as for optical-based security clearances, it's important to note that such technologies can be subject to failure or manipulation by a malicious user.”

The biometric databases can be breached and their data can be sold and distributed on the dark web.

Facial Recognition Is Here to Stay

The move toward using facial recognition will expand because it can lower the possibility of impersonation or identity theft. People who have iPhones started using FaceID in 2017. Managing large crowds is also easier with facial recognition.

“As a form of zero trust, it is a great trend and direction for security overall,” Broomhead said.

“Similar to how Apple’s PassKey is using an iPhone to allow users to log in (instead of passwords), security is enhanced by moving to methods that cannot be easily spoofed or hacked.”

"Stadiums and similar venues use facial recognition as part of “game day security” to ensure the stadium does not have banned visitors or other potential security risks present,” he said. “It’s easier and faster to weed out people who don’t belong."