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Alabama Moves To “Ticketless” Ticketing — the elitist, data-harvesting nightmare begins

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Intrusive. Invasive. Myopic. Galling breach of trust.

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You are a simp.

Alabama Athletics doesn’t see you as a fan, a student, a ticket-holder, or even a consumer. They see you as a never-ending revenue stream.

While the left hand reaches for the wallet, the right hand harvests every scrap of information about you. You are an upsell, a resell, a file to be commodified and packaged to third parties.

Your “data”, as we so dismissively frame details about our lives, are in fact chattels. They are peppercorns. And we are the marks, with some being riper targets than others.

You are being harvested. And the reaping season will now truly begin in earnest.

Beginning with the 2020 athletic season, admission to all University of Alabama athletic events will require mobile ticketing. No paper tickets. No PDF-to-print. You will pay them money, they will email you a link that preloads the ticket onto either Google Wallet or Apple Pay wallet systems. Ostensibly framed as a “contactless” point of entry to venues for your safety, it’s as cynical a move as it is simultaneously exclusionary and invasive.

Who cares that 27% of Boomers don’t use the internet, or that 10% of all Americans don’t use the internet. Don’t have an email address? Again, you’re not an outlier. About 10% of the country not only don’t use email, they’re a segment of the population that has never sent or received one in their life. Just about 30% of American adults with a high school education or less don’t use the internet...at all. Almost 20% of the working class poor don’t use the internet...at all. This is where I remind you that the 37% of the Alabama population works minimum wage jobs.

Don’t have a smartphone? You’re not alone. One-in-five Americans don’t own one, and those numbers reveal a vast tech chasm based on age — fully half of the country aged 65+ don’t own a smartphone. Have you taken a look around Bryant Denny lately? Those grey-hairs aren’t an accident: 17% of the state’s population is 65+. And, just like most Southern states, Alabama’s geezer rate is higher than the general US population. But, hey, don’t worry; the FAQs suggest that you call (and ironically email) the ticketing office for “options” — options that are not set forth for consumers, which pose another unnecessary barrier to entry, and which will wholly require contact at the point-of-entry. Which of course begs the entire question of why set up this punishing Skinner box just to go to a football game to begin with?

The fact is that literally none of those impediments matter to the University of Alabama. Not your age, not your income, not your technological gap, not your reticence to become a commodity, and absolutely not your data privacy. Invasion of your privacy is the very point here, after all.

See, with your name, with your purchasing habits, and with your email information, Alabama can make a whole lot off that with its “partners.” And its “partners,” can in turn make even more sharing that with “subsidiary partnerships” — entirely unrelated, officious third-party entities. Third parties that have absolutely no business knowing ours.

Does it get better? Oh, rest assured, it does.

Can’t let Alabama harvest you without throwing in yet more data to be collected and handed over like the good soldiers they are. See, this will also apply to your parking spaces. That means the Great Trawling Monster can conceivably put your name, your device, your location, your purchase history, your email address and your attendance patterns together with your vehicle information all in one handy, easy-to-commodify package. That is a significant amount of information about you that has either been required for entry, or which can now can be readily ascertained or deduced by an algorithm.

Neat, huh?!

And, do you want to take a stab at how many mentions of consumer rights or data privacy are included in the University’s press release or FAQ? If you said “zero,” you’re on the right track.

“But I like the commemorative tickets,” you may protest. Well, rest assured, you top-dollar donors, you will receive a set of those keepsakes — Alabama has you covered. For the rest of the Tide Pride plebes, and the single-ticket peasants visiting town who just want a memento, there’s another up-sell to be had. You can buy your own! Roll damn value-add!

LSU v Alabama Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

There’s gatekeeping and there’s whatever Alabama was thinking. Pawning off the multiple tiers of this cash-grab on a pandemic is about as cynical, as duplicitous a maneuver as you’ll see emanate from the bowels of a soulless Comms department. It is doubly so when you realize that the barriers that are now in place serve one elitist purpose only: to collect the right sorts of data about the right sorts of fans.

We have covered this extensively before: the premiere ticketing platform isn’t even in the business of ticketing anymore. Its primary revenue generation comes from data-scraping and reselling. Don’t like it? Tough shit. Worried about a data breach of your private information? Feature, not a bug. There’s a quick buck to be had.

Don’t have a smartphone? Buy one. I’m sure AT&T, Alabama’s official cellular sponsor can help you out with that. Can’t afford one? Take out a personal loan from BBVA USA, the official financial partner of Alabama athletics.

Don’t have an email account? Tough. Get one, so we can put you in a database. And guess what? Google or Yahoo or dozens of other tech giants will scan the contents of that email and have even more data about you to sell and resell.

Been saving up to take the kids to that affordable FCS game? Rest assured that you will now have to purchase consumer electronics. Best check with Regions, the official banking partner of the SEC, to see if you can swing it.

Did you buy tickets for a group and are meeting them at different times at the stadium? You’re gonna’ have to transfer those individual seats to each and every one of those attendees. Seems convoluted, right? Not when you realize this is a feature, not a bug. Now the data monster has even more email addresses, with even more metadata, about people unrelated to the transaction to consume. I mean, there are entire breakout sessions and how-to’s on best-practices to poach your data.

Overwhelmed by modern communications? No need for them? This dog is too old for that new trick? Tough. There is simply no room for you in this brave new world...but email us, and we’ll explain it to you.

Don’t potentially want people to know you’re riding in a ratty 1978 Chevy Citation? Fear not, Tuscaloosa Toyota, an official sponsor of Alabama athletics, can put you in that new Camry, zero-down for 72 months.

For someone whose stock-in-trade is communicating ideas, complex and otherwise, I am at an utter loss here; disgusted doesn’t cover it. These are intrusive, elitist barriers to entry that no one should have to endure to attend a sporting event. You just wanted to watch a basketball game, not be shrink-wrapped and sold down the river. Worse, at its heart it is downright disrespectful to consumers, as though the University forgot that we are giving them money. That they rely upon us for their financial well-being. And yet they are not only not doing us a favor, they are pissing on our leg and telling us its raining as they pretend otherwise.

We are not fans anymore. We are products paying for the privilege of grabbing our umbrellas.

If this were a matter of trading off data privacy for a free product, that’s one thing. Facebook and Google and countless mobile games have built empires out of that model. But you are getting absolutely nothing here except naked extortion: Pay up and give us your data, or pay up and then be forced into capricious, punitive institutional barriers meant to force those out of the market who will not play ball.

I hoped for more. I expected better. And I am wholly unsurprised.