After that of cancellations, an additional concern has been hanging over festivals for a few weeks. The bill relating to the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which was examined on January 24 and 25 in the Senate, plans to authorize, on an experimental basis, the collection of images by drones or static cameras and their analysis by algorithms. The debate, which initially focused on facial recognition – quickly removed from the text – now focuses on the augmented camera device above the heads of the spectators.
The scale of the future Olympics serves to justify the urgency of the measures. However, the bill extends video surveillance to “recreational and cultural events”. Certain music festivals, which feel targeted, oppose firmly to measure. For Frédéric Hocquard, president of the National Federation of Local Authorities for Culture, the text places cultural events in a relationship of equivalence with sporting events, while each has an identity and unique security requirements: “A football match is not a music festival”, he points out.
Moreover, the experimental nature of the device arouses the fear of some professionals in the sector. The collection of data and their intended algorithmic processing gives them the feeling of serving as a laboratory for the safe use of artificial intelligence. “We are not guinea pigs”, Frédéric Hocquard gets annoyed. For La Quadrature du Net, an association for the defense of individual freedoms specializing in technological issues, security companies need this experimentation to train their algorithms.
According to a researcher specializing in security policies in urban space – she wished to remain anonymous – cultural events are particularly suitable for experimentation because their public, which is not very politicized, would be less likely to identify security measures and involve them in a social monitoring project.
Social experimentation laboratories
The duration of application of these measures until June 30, 2025 – i.e. beyond the closure of the Olympic and Paralympic Games – increases the suspicion of certain organizers. France Festivals, a network of music and live performance festivals, in particular, fears that they will become permanent. Boris Vedel, director of Printemps de Bourges, tempers: for him, festivals have always been laboratories for social experimentation. “Recycling, sorting and recovery of waste have been tested at festivals”, he recalls.
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