Facial recognition technology is everywhere today, from airports to the phone in your pocket. One place you might not expect to encounter it is a popular concert venue like Radio City Music Hall in New York. However, Madison Square Garden Entertainment, the operator of this and other facilities, recently used facial recognition to single out and eject a woman from its famed Rockettes show. Her crime? Being a lawyer at the wrong law firm.
Kelly Conlon says she purchased tickets for her and her daughter to see the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show as part of a Girl Scout outing. Upon entering, Conlon says she heard an announcement over the PA system describing her physical appearance. Moments later, security stopped her and asked for identification, telling her the venue’s facial recognition technology had “picked [her] up.”
Before even talking to Conlon, security knew her name and, more importantly, her employer. Conlon is an associate for New Jersey law firm Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, which has been involved in a personal injury lawsuit against a restaurant owned by MSG Entertainment for several years. It turns out that MSG Entertainment has a little-known policy to bar attorneys who work for firms engaged in litigation against it. So, Conlon was separated from her daughter and forced to wait outside.
Oh. my. god.
Madison Square Garden used facial recognition to identify and stop a mom from attending a Christmas show with her kid because she’s an attorney at a firm who is engaged in litigation with them.
Ban this shit yesterday.https://t.co/mY6mPypdQY
— Evan Greer is on Mastodon (@evan_greer) December 20, 2022
MSG Entertainment says it has been transparent about this policy with the affected companies. In particular, it has sent two notices about it to Davis, Saperstein & Salomon. However, Conlon notes that she doesn’t have anything to do with the case. MSG has been using facial recognition at security checkpoints since at least 2018.
News of this encounter has privacy advocates up in arms. Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, has called for this practice to be banned nationally. Most action on facial recognition focuses on preventing governments and law enforcement from expanding its use, but private enterprise has flown under the radar. Fight for the Future advocates for all “places of public accommodation” to be free of facial recognition technology, which can be used by businesses to preemptively ban people who may have affiliations with competitors or, as in this case, legal rivals.
In the wake of her removal from Radio City Music Hall, Conlon is going after MSG Entertainment via its liquor license. Conlon points out that the license requires MSG to admit members of the public unless they are disruptive or a threat to safety.