Fred Katz: NBA announced today the creation of the Pete Winemiller Guest Experience Innovation Award, named for the late OKC Sr. VP of Guest Relations. The award “will honor an NBA team executive who innovates to create a world class service experience for fans,” the release reads.
The following week I reach out to Amul Kalia of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the nation’s leading nonprofit fighting for personal privacy and security in the digital age. A former Sacramentan himself, Kalia is interested to hear more about the Kings app. He stresses the importance of users knowing what they sign up for. “You always want to be conscious of what kind of data [an app] has access to on your device,” he says. “It naturally lends itself to collecting a lot of information on you.”
“You’ll be tracked in the arena, but simultaneously your activities will be used to sort of guide their services,” he says. Two days later, I’m on my couch exploring the app’s “Find Friends & Destinations” arena map, which is supposed to use GPS and Bluetooth technology to tell fans when their friends are in the arena and show them nearby attractions. I zoom out on the map to view the rest of downtown, and freeze when I see a flashing blue dot a mile south of the arena—right over my house. They know where I live.
I call up Gary Miliefsky, a consumer privacy advocate and CEO of cybersecurity firm SnoopWall, to see if I’m reading too much into this whole arena-surveillance thing. He takes a minute to look at the app’s permissions on Google Play. Then he gives me his answer. “The Sacramento Kings app is a piece of creepware,” he concludes.
One of mankind’s truisms is that people will always approach new technologies with trepidation. I feel it here today. An arena that “checks in” to me, learns about me and builds a profile on me. Walkways and seating peppered with countless Bluetooth beacons that tap into my phone as I pass by. I ask Montoya about public fears surrounding such new technology. “See, that’s the beauty. The technology here is not really in your face. It’s in your face if you come in here,” he says, gesturing to the command center. “Most fans will never come in here. But it’s manifested in shorter restroom lines, shorter entry points, getting your food fast, getting advanced stats, getting everything in real-time.”