Facial recognition data being collected at Toyota Center

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Tri-Cities will get some national attention for technology. PNNL is testing facial recognition software.

It's being done on crowds at the Toyota Center, but it raises some concerns about privacy issues.

Christie Waguespack is one of thousands who visit the Toyota Center every year.

"We've gone for concerts and we've gone for theater type things and different events," she says.

She also goes to Ams games. But when the puck drops this year, it might look a little bit more like George Orwell's "1984."

"If we're heading down this road and that's exactly what's going to happen, Then they have to start somewhere," she added.

PNNL hopes to test facial recognition technology at the Toyota Center. Cameras will be mounted throughout the arena. A number of predetermined volunteers will walk through the arena with the crowds.
Video of those crowds will be sent off to improve facial recognition technology -- to see if those people's faces can be picked out.

Officials with PNNL say the most important part of the project is advancing the technology, but they want to do it with the public's help. Which is why they put out sandwich boards at the entrances saying that they will be doing videotaping in the area and if you don't want to take part in it, you can go to a different entrance.

"We have left many areas, most areas, free from video cameras and it's clear where we're video taping and there's always a way around it," says PNNL Test Engineer Marcia Kimura.

Kennewick was chosen because of the Lab's long standing relationship with the Toyota Center.

"I love the attitude of the Tri-Cities. That the people tend to understand the necessity for research and for contribution to a positive future in the United States," Marcia added.

Christie is still on the fence.

"There's two sides to the coin. There's the privacy side, which, there are a lot of people who look at this as an invasion of privacy, and I get that. Then there's the other side--I don't have anything to hide, so what does it matter?" she says.

PNNL assures us no one from the general public will be identified on the tape. Crowds will be recorded throughout the Ams' season.