- 2022 FIFA World Cup attendees in Qatar will be watched by 15,000 cameras with facial recognition technology.
- The cameras are slated to be deployed across the eight stadiums where the matches will be held.
- The tournament, which runs from November 20 to December 18, is expected to draw 1 million visitors.
The soccer players aren’t the only ones who are going to be watched at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar: The attendees will be, too.
The entire event — including attendees — will be monitored by 15,000 cameras equipped with facial-recognition technology, Niyas Abdulrahiman, the event’s chief technology officer, told AFP in August.
The surveillance is part of Qatar’s efforts to look out for security threats such as terrorism and hooliganism during the tournament, which is expected to draw over 1 million visitors, per AFP.
Since 2010, when Qatar won the rights to host the FIFA World Cup, the country has spent more than $300 billion building new infrastructure, including seven new stadiums, to accommodate the influx of people, per Bloomberg estimates.
The surveillance network will be run by the Aspire Command and Control center, the technical hub that oversees operations for the eight stadiums where the matches will be held, Abdulrahiman told AFP.
Rows of security technicians are seated behind monitors in a room that looks like a NASA mission control center, photos show.
“Basically we can open a door or all the doors in a stadium right from here,” Abdulrahiman said.
The control center will have eyes on all nearby metro trains and buses, he added. Experts from Qatar University have also developed drones that can provide estimates of the number of people on the streets.
“What you see here is a new standard, a new trend in venue operations, this is our contribution from Qatar to the world of sport. What you see here is the future of stadium operations,” said Abdulrahiman.
The security monitors will enable officials to map out access to rooms and equipment in case of emergency, per AFP.
“Whatever happens, there is a response in place,” said Hamad Al-Mohannadi, the director of the command center, told AFP. “As long as there is no property damage and no one injured, we will just be watching.”
This is not the first time biometric technology has been used to survey fans at soccer matches. At the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff, UK, facial-recognition technology mistakenly labeled over 2,000 people as possible criminals, the BBC reported.
The use of biometric technology to survey spectators is not the only security concern that’s been raised about the upcoming World Cup event.
Norwegian broadcasting company NRK reported in October that visitors entering Qatar will be asked to download two mobile apps that could potentially pose risks to personal privacy and data security.
“It’s not my job to give travel advice, but personally I would never bring my mobile phone on a visit to Qatar,” NRK’s head of security Øyvind Vasaasen said after reviewing the apps.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup — which features 32 teams competing across 64 matches — is slated to take place from November 20 to December 18.
FIFA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.