New York Attorney General questions Madison Square Garden Entertainment over use of facial recognition technology

Attorney General of New York Letitia James have sent a letter is asking Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) to explain its reported use of facial recognition technology to bar people involved in lawsuits against the company from its venues, the Attorney General’s office said on Wednesday (Jan 25).

The letter cites reports that approximately 90 law firms comprising thousands of attorneys are affected by a policy MSG Entertainment allegedly instituted in which facial recognition technology was used to identify and exclude attorneys with legitimate tickets from venues including MSG and Radio City Concert Hall . The letter says the office has “concerns that the policy may violate the New York Civil Rights Act and other city, state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activity.” The letter also says the office is concerned that such practices may violate laws prohibiting retaliation and that the technology “may be plagued by bias and false positives against people of color and women.”

“MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” James said in a statement included in a news release from her office about the case. “Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all ticketed patrons with fairness and respect. Anyone with a ticket to an event should not be concerned that they may be wrongfully denied entry based on their appearance and we call on MSG Entertainment to reverse this policy.”

In a statement sent to Billboardan MSG spokesperson responded to the letter, saying, “To be clear, our policy does not unlawfully prohibit anyone from entering our venues, and it is not our intention to dissuade attorneys from representing plaintiffs in lawsuits against us. We exclude only a small percentage of attorneys in active litigation. Most importantly, to even suggest that anyone be barred based on the protected classes identified in state and federal civil rights laws is ludicrous. Our policy has never applied to attorneys who represents plaintiffs alleging sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace.”

In the last few months have New York Times have reported that MSG Entertainment, owned by James Dolan, has begun using facial recognition software to identify a list of attorneys representing clients involved in lawsuits against the company, barring not only those attorneys, but all attorneys from their respective firms, from attending concerts or other events at its venues, which include MSG, Radio City, Hulu Theatre, Beacon Theater and others. Events where the policy has reportedly been used include games involving the NBA’s New York Knicks and the NHL’s New York Rangers, both of which Dolan also owns.

The use of facial recognition technology is legal in New York state, although some attorneys who have sued the company argue that using it to block a list of attorneys with open lawsuits against MSGE is not. The public outcry has caught the attention of the attorney general, who is requesting a response both justifying the policy and detailing attempts to comply with laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation by February. 13.

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