Like it or not, facial recognition cameras are coming to gates at Oracle Park, in what Major League Baseball calls “hands-free” ticketing, but others call a “nuclear bomb of privacy.”

Friday is your San Francisco Giants’ Home Opener, and so for this moment the Chronicle wrote a nice article about the technological upgrades coming to Oracle Park this season. As we’ve noted, these include new LED lighting effects and a sound system. The Chronicle headline describes these upgrades as “Dramatic lights, amplified sound, facial recognition.”

What, what’s this now, facial recognition? The Chronicle calls this a “nifty doodad.” It’s a new “feature” in the The MLB Ballpark app, that not-exactly convenient app which you’re forced to use to get into Oracle Park on many occasions that are not even baseball games, like a Lady Gaga concert or an outdoor movie night. (I always delete it right after entering, because I don’t want it tracking my location, mobile browsing history, or god knows what else.)

The Giants are one of four Major League Baseball (MLB) teams now using the facial ticketing scanner this season. MLB describes this as “A new free-flow facial authentication technology, resulting in a fast, hands-free, eyes-up entry into the ballpark for fans.” It’s supposed to make it quicker and easier to get into the park, and will apparently only be used, at first, at the Lefty O’Doul Gate and the Second & King Gate.

“It takes maybe five seconds to register,” Giants chief marketing officer Rachel Heit told the Chronicle. (Uhh, I can tell you from experience that downloading and signing up for the MLB Ballpark app definitely takes more than five seconds.) “For me, I’m always struggling to get my phone out, bring up the tickets and usher my family through and this is very, very seamless.”

A quote from a “chief marketing officer” is always trying to sell you something, and that something may be a lemon. I have yet to meet anyone who prefers the MLB Ballpark app to a normal PDF or bar code, so that was no great technological advance. The move is meant to get fans into the stands quicker, and it does eliminate the need to get out a phone. But there’s no guarantee it won’t have glitchy days, and it may open a Pandora’ box of privacy nightmares.

Above we see what the camera scanners look like. And yes, this is an opt-in program: you sign up for the facial scan ticketing system. But are those cameras taking pictures of everyone who walks through the gate, regardless of whether they’ve opted in? MLB took great pains to explain to ESPN that the facial data of people who sign up for the system is subject to strict privacy rules; their submitted verification selfies are not stored, and their biometric data is not sold.

But they didn’t say anything about what happens to the footage those cameras are taking, which may photograph everyone who walks past them. And that’s the real risk here.

“Face recognition is the nuclear bomb of privacy,” ACLU senior policy analyst Jay Stanley told USA Today. “It has a very real potential to be expanded. People need to ask themselves whether they want to live in a world where their face is scanned at every turn.”

Yes, San Francisco banned facial recognition for government agencies in 2019. But that ban only applied to government agencies, and voters undid those restrictions for SFPD in last month’s election. Can SFPD access footage from the Oracle Park facial scanners? Would Trumper Giants owner Charles Johnson use it to track perceived political enemies?

Sure, you could just avoid the two gates where they’re putting the scanners. But those scanners may be coming to every gate someday. And even with the promised privacy measures, there’s no knowing whether MLB would discreetly roll back those measures in the years to come, perhaps only saying so on the 100,000th sentence of some lengthy “We’ve updated our terms” horseshit.

"Trust this, trust that -- they're all pinky promises that I just don't trust," digital rights advocacy organization Fight for the Future managing director Caitlin Seeley George told ESPN. "Pinky promises by companies that are, in the end, driven by making money. That's always their priority."

Related: Oracle Park Gets More Like Being In the Club This Season With New Soundsystem, Lighting Effects [SFist]

Image: Front view of the entrance to Oracle Park, a baseball park in San Francisco, California, November 19, 2020. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)