Hands Down

Red Rocks Amphitheater slaps away Amazon's palm-scanning tech

The about-face comes after months of advocacy work from both privacy groups and musicians.

MORRISON, CO - JUNE 19:  Umphrey's McGee perform at Red Rocks Amphitheater on June 19, 2021 in Morri...
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Following multiple months of pushback, one of the first major music vendors utilizing Amazon’s controversial palm-scanning ID technology is reversing course on the product. Red Rocks Amphitheater, the iconic live venue near Denver, Colorado, has confirmed via advocacy group Fight for the Future that it does not intend to use the Amazon One biometric security feature any longer.

“We haven't been in contact with Amazon in several months and this isn't a planned activation at Red Rocks," Brian Kitts, Denver Arts and Venues’ marketing and communications director, told Fight for the Future via email earlier today.

The news comes less than six months after the Big Tech corporation announced its intentions to expand the palm-scanning tech (known as Amazon One) beyond its own experimental brick-and-mortar stores. There still remains an uphill battle in pressuring larger businesses to follow suit on Red Rocks’ decision.

Major endorsements — Part of Red Rocks’ decision is undoubtedly owed to the gaining strength of Fight for the Future’s open letter, which has been signed by over 30 activist groups and 200 musical artists, including Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine) and Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill).

The issues raised by artists and supporters goes beyond basic privacy concerns — the kinds of biometric information collected by tech like Amazon One can easily be handed over to law enforcement agencies for surveillance purposes without citizens’ knowledge or explicit consent. Any kind of cloud-based data storage is also susceptible to hacking, even if stored by such a high-profile company as Amazon.

Plenty of work remains — Although Red Rocks Amphitheater’s decision is a welcome one, plenty of additional work remains to counter the spread of this invasive tech. Currently, both Red Rocks’ ticketing provider, AXS, and its parent company, AEG, are still moving forward with their own contracts.

“As we speak, AXS is trying to bring palm scanning to a number of new venues – including Mission Ballroom in Denver – making our fight to keep events free of biometric data collection as urgent as ever,” Fight for the Future explains in a press release. The activist group also notes that “this victory at Red Rocks demonstrates what’s possible when we take action together, and we invite artists, organizations, and fans everywhere to join the ongoing effort to ban these tools by adding their names to the open letter at AmazonDoesntRock.com.”