NY AG wants answers on Madison Square Garden’s use of facial recognition against legal opponents

NY AG wants answers on Madison Square Garden’s use of facial recognition against legal opponents

New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter to MSG Entertainment, the owner and operator of Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall, requesting information about its use of facial recognition to deny entry to attorneys at businesses representing on his legal opponents. James’ letter warns that the Orwellian policy could violate local, state and federal human rights laws, including those that prohibit retaliation.

MSG Entertainment’s facial recognition is recognizing and denying entry to lawyers from firms representing clients who are suing the company—whether those attorneys are directly involved in the cases or not. The company, led by CEO James Dolan (who also owns the New York Knicks and Rangers), has defended the policy as an effort to prevent the collection of evidence “outside of proper litigation discovery channels.” However, lawyers called that reasoning “ridiculous,” criticizing the ban as a “transparent attempt” to punish attorneys for suing them.

The company has removed at least four lawyers from events at its venues since October – including at Knicks and Rangers games, concerts and Christmas shows. As they passed through a metal detector, facial recognition matched the attorneys to photos from their firms’ websites. James’ office says the policy affects all lawyers working in more than 90 firms.

In the letter, James warns MSG Entertainment that barring people from centers could violate New York’s civil and human rights laws and at the same time make other attorneys think twice about taking legal cases against the company. “MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” AG James said. “Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who have purchased tickets with fairness and respect. No one with a ticket to an event should have to worry that they could be unfairly denied entry based on their appearance, and we urge MSG Entertainment to reverse this policy.”

February 12, 2020;  New York, New York, USA;  New York Knicks executive chairman James Dolan watches the game during the first quarter against the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden.  Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
James Dolan, CEO of MSG Entertainment

USA TODAY USPW / reuters

It’s not just the Attorney General who is taking on Dolan and MSG Entertainment. New York state legislators Brad Hoylman-Sigal, Liz Krueger and Tony Simone introduced a bill Monday to outlaw the policy. It would amend a previous state civil rights law that prohibited venues from denying entry to anyone with a valid ticket, and add “sporting events” to the list of qualifying events.

Madison Square Garden has used facial recognition for security since at least 2018. James’ letter calls on MSG Entertainment to justify its use of the technology and to report on its steps to comply with New York’s civil and human rights laws to ensure that the technology does not result. more discrimination. “Discrimination and retaliation against those who have petitioned the government for relief,” the letter reads, “have no place in New York.”

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