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MSG allegedly used facial recognition to remove a rival attorney

MSG allegedly used facial recognition to remove a rival attorney

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A lawyer working for a law firm that is taking legal action against MSG Entertainment claims she was spotted by the company’s facial recognition security system while attending a Rockettes show with her daughter and was eventually refused entry. The case, one of the first of its kind according to a privacy expert who spoke to Gizmodo, sheds light on an underreported practice by private companies using biometric identification systems to enforce retaliation regulations in a grossly under-regulated biometric environment.

The attorney, a mother named Kelly Conlon, reportedly traveled to New York City with her daughter as part of a Girl Scout field trip to see “The Christmas Spectacular.” Conlon claims she was arrested by venue security immediately after going through metal detectors and asked to give her name and produce ID. One of the guards, Conlon said in an interview with NBC New York, allegedly told her she had been “picked up” by their detection system.

Conlon told NBC New York she saw signs on the wall advising that guests’ facial recognition was being used. For context, MSG Entertainment, which operates Radio City Music Hall, reportedly began rolling out facial recognition at venues in 2018 to “enhance security.” Since then, the technology has become increasingly popular in live events and large sports stadiums.

“They knew my name before I told them,” Conlon told NBC New York. “They knew the company I was associated with before I told them. And they told me I wasn’t allowed to be there.”

Conlon told the publication she works as an associate at Davis, Saperstein and Solomon, a New Jersey-based firm that has been dealing with a personal injury case against an MGM Entertainment restaurant for the past four years.

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“It was embarrassing, it was humiliating,” Conlon said. “I was just a mom who took my daughter to a Christmas show.”

MSG did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, but a company spokesperson told NBC New York that it has a “straightforward policy of preventing attorneys who have active litigation against the company from attending events at our venues.” .

“While we understand that these policies may disappoint some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently unfavorable environment,” MSG added. “All affected attorneys have been notified of the policy, including Davis, Saperstein and Salomon, who have been notified twice,” a spokesman for MSG Entertainment said in a statement.

While the abuse of facial recognition by police and federal agencies has garnered the lion’s share of attention in recent years, Conlon’s case points to a parallel growing trend of private companies implementing the same systems, often with little meaningful oversight. Albert Fox Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, said he wasn’t aware of other instances of companies using facial recognition to retaliate against adversaries, but cautioned that there’s really nothing that will do the same in the future under the current ones laws could prevent.

“These technologies are ripe for abuse and it’s about time New York City banned facial recognition,” Fox Cahn said. “Giving corporations, the wealthy and the government the ability to track almost anyone at any time is a recipe for disaster. Nobody has to fear that they will be banned from public view just because they fight for the rights of their clients in court.”

Though New York has, technically at least, tightened restrictions on the use of facial recognition in some areas like schools and has made incremental efforts towards transparency, it has nevertheless stopped implementing the kind of citywide bans seen in places like Oakland and Boston . However, even these cities are doing little to stop private companies from implementing the technology and using it against those who see fit.

“I dread a world where any company can retaliate against whistleblowers and even those who leave bad reviews by banning them in the future,” Fox Cahn said.

And this world seems to come. Surveillance firms previously interested in working with law enforcement are adapting their technology to serve the private sector. Clearview AI, one of the most notorious facial recognition companies in the world, recently announced its intention to sell its one-to-one facial recognition system, Clearview Consent, to schools, banks and other private companies. These types of environments give surveillance firms an opportunity to stay afloat in the security business while distancing themselves from the police and other law enforcement groups that have eroded public trust in recent years. At the same time, companies like MSG risk welcoming a similar wave of consumer confidence by essentially monitoring their every move.

“Radio City is on Santa’s watch list,” Fox Cahn said. “Mass surveillance isn’t exactly in a holiday mood.”

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