The 2018 Winter Olympics had quite the tech spectacle with 1,200 Intel drones producing a memorable light show. However, it’s likely the 2020 Tokyo Olympics won’t make as big a deal for a new technological feat: widespread facial recognition for increased security.
No, this isn’t some science-fiction dystopian future. Select attendees of the games — including athletes, media, staff, and volunteers — will have their identities verified via a face scan to enter venues, the Tokyo Organizing Committee said in an announcement. This extra level of security will be at all of the Tokyo 2020 games as well as the Paralympic Games — a first for both.
Technically it’s the first time this technology is in use at the Olympics formally, but in advance of the 2014 Olympics Games a face-recognition system was used at the Sochi airport.
For Tokyo 2020, NEC facial-recognition scanners will be at checkpoints throughout the games. In the press release, the Tokyo Organizing Committee noted that all accredited ticket holders will need to submit facial images ahead of the games.
From a privacy perspective, this raises some red flags as neither the Tokyo Organizing Committee, the International Olympic Committee, nor NEC Corporation has explained how the images will be stored and what security steps are being taken to protect them. Mashable has reached out to NEC to learn more about this and will update this post when we hear back.
The scanners will check the ID card and then verify the image on file with the person in real life no matter the height, in addition to those in wheelchairs as noted by The Verge. This scanner needs to recognize all athletes at Olympic and Paralympic games for it to make the difference it strives for.
Tsuyoshi Iwashita, the executive director of security of the games, said in a prepared statement that this system is meant, “to prevent unauthorized access” at the venues. Security staff will still be present, but the system should make their job easier. Rather than having security staff check each person, the technology will scan his or her face, speeding up the entry process.
Tokyo is intended set the stage for a broader rollout of this technology at future games. However, until the unknowns around privacy and security of the images are resolved, we’re unsure if the benefits are worth the trade-off.