Phillies to sign Aaron Nola to a four-year, $45 million extension

Phillies to sign Aaron Nola to a four-year, $45 million extension

It was announced last summer to relatively little fanfare, but after a few years in which only a couple of teams have done this on a small-scale basis, several more teams will be introducing biometric ticketing and concessions purchases in 2019. It’s a pilot program between Major League Baseball and Clear, the company behind fingerprint and facial recognition technology at airports and other places. As described in a typical story about it from last summer:

Clear members can link their profiles with their accounts, entering Comerica Park or Yankee Stadium or AT&T Park with just the tap of a finger—or maybe even facial recognition technology in the near future. The tech is still developing.

With the nod to people who like to say things like “the future is cool,” etc. etc., may I ask why anyone would willingly give their biometric data to Major League Baseball and whatever business partners with whom it intends to share it?

To be clear, I am not one of those people who lose sleep at night worrying about data security. It’s a serious matter, yes, but I tend to think that the concerns about it can, at times, be overstated. I know Facebook, Twitter my mobile phone and all manner of other apps and devices are collecting data and are studying my habits. I don’t think it’s a good thing, but I also try to exercise as much common sense, employ enough password and security measures, and share as little truly critical personal information as I can. There is a real danger of data misuse and theft, yes, but at times some of the talk about it can, I think, be a tad overwrought and alarmist.

But biometric data is a bit different than, say, a social media profile or a record of the online retailers I like to browse. I can change my passwords and go incognito online. I can’t change my fingerprints. I can’t change my retinas. Once that data is collected by the New York Yankees or the good people of Aramark they, theoretically, can hold it forever. Or sell it to anyone. They may say they have no interest in doing that but there is nothing stopping them. Indeed, as this article from attorney Rob Newman at SportsTechie explains, there are no federal laws covering this and only three state laws about it at all. Only one of which, in Illinois, has anything approaching teeth.

The bigger question I have: why in the heck does baseball think this is necessary?

A glimpse of it can be seen in the quotes given by an MLB official last summer:

“Developing a partnership that will unify emerging identity technology and ticketing is reflective of our commitments to always improving ballpark accessibility and maintaining critical security standards.”

Like everyone else in post-9/11 society, baseball seems to think that using the word “security” as some sort of magical incantation explains everything that needs to be explained. That’s far from the case, of course.

You can read a good bit of why that is in this article at Vice from 2015, which reported on the first installation of Clear’s biometric technology in baseball, at Yankee Stadium. The upshot: while biometric technology can mostly assure that the person entering a stadium is who they say they are, baseball has never cared, one iota, that the person entering the stadium is who they say they are. You’re not ID-checked at the turnstile and you never have been. There is no reason for baseball to do that at all outside of the extraordinarily rare case of keeping out people who have otherwise been banned from the ballpark. All it takes is a ticket, an ID and a set of fingers to get Clear-approved to enter the ballpark, which anyone can get. What’s more, if you get it, you actually get to bypass the security measures baseball tells us are oh-so-important. If anything, biometric entry to a ballpark would make it easier to get a semi-automatic pistol and a couple of grenades into the ballpark, not harder.

So why do this? I can see two real reasons: (1) to make the security theater that has taken over Major League Baseball far more efficient; and (2) to sell your personal data.

We’ve talked about the metal detectors before. They’re an exercise in optics, not security. There has never been anything approaching a significant metal-detector-preventable security risk to fans at major league games and, to the extent that the actually very weak metal detectors outside stadiums are aimed at preventing one in the future, that risk is probably offset by the fact that their presence causes hundreds if not thousands of fans to be bunched together outside of security waiting to get in. If an evil person wanted to inflict a lot of damage at a baseball game, they could do so far more easily on the sidewalk outside the gates than inside the park now that the metal detectors are there. And no, I’m not engaging in conspiracy theories of trafficking in wild, imaginary horribles here. People who study this stuff for a living have said as much.

The metal detectors are there to both make people feel safer and to allow Major League Baseball and its clubs to say after the fact, if anything does happen later, that they at least tried. The problem, though, is that fans hate them because it makes getting into the ballpark a long and difficult process and keeps them from buying beer and stuff. What to do about that? Fingerprint scanning! It’s quick! It gets people through the line quickly! It stops the complaining and gets people in to buy things! It likewise allows executives to give empty quotes about “maintaining critical security standards” and gives people who don’t think for more than a moment about it the illusion of safety. But again, for reasons stated above, your fingerprint saying you are who you say you are does nothing to keep anyone safe. It merely makes it easier for your identity to be confirmed if you do, in fact, do bad crap inside the ballpark.

Which leaves data for the sake of data. The biometric scanning costs fans nothing. Unlike at airports there is no registration fee or anything to get put in Clear’s system. As the old saying goes, if you’re not paying for the product you ARE the product. Make no mistake, this is about data collection for which, as noted, there are virtually no regulations.

MLB and Clear will get your data. Maybe they do nothing with it but I doubt it. I fully expect that someone at one of those entities has some neat ideas of what to do with your fingerprints and everything they can learn about you by virtue of possessing them. They’re likely not even, on the surface anyway, nefarious ideas. They may promise you a new tomorrow of convenience and joy! The ability to, say, by a beer at a kiosk seven seconds faster because you don’t have to flash your driver’s license or the ability to be marketed to even more efficiently than is already happening. As someone who purchased online tickets for a White Sox game five years ago and still, to this day, gets a half dozen solicitations from the White Sox a month, maybe it would be better if they could get a better handle on me, because they’re wasting everyone’s time. 

But you can bet your bippy that they’re gonna do something with it. And in exchange for it you’re not going to be any safer. Nor is your immutable personal data. How you feel about that is up to you.




MLB News

via HardballTalk

February 13, 2019 at 07:48AM


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