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New York Attorney General Questions Madison Square Garden Entertainment Over Facial Recognition Technology Use

The state's top lawyer is requesting details after reports the software has been used to ban attorneys involved in lawsuits against the company from its venues.

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

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The letter cites reports that approximately 90 law firms comprising thousands of lawyers are affected by a policy that MSG Entertainment allegedly put in place, in which the facial recognition tech has been used to identify and bar attorneys with legitimate tickets from venues including MSG and Radio City Music Hall. The letter says the office has “concerns that the Policy may violate the New York Civil Rights Law and other city, state, and federal laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activity.” The letter also says that the office is concerned that such practices could run afoul of laws prohibiting retaliation and that the technology “may be plagued with biases 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 press release from her office on the matter. “Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who purchased tickets 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’re urging MSG Entertainment to reverse this policy.”

In a statement sent to Billboard, an 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 intent to dissuade attorneys from representing plaintiffs in litigation against us. We are merely excluding a small percentage of lawyers only during active litigation. Most importantly, to even suggest anyone is being excluded based on the protected classes identified in state and federal civil rights laws is ludicrous. Our policy has never applied to attorneys representing plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment or employment discrimination.”

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

The use of facial recognition technology is legal in the state of New York, though some lawyers who have sued the company claim that using it to bar a list of attorneys with open litigation 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 abide by the laws outlawing discrimination and retaliation by Feb. 13.