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Attorney Kelly Conlon recently accompanied her daughter on a Girl Scout field trip to Radio City Music Hall. They were there to watch the Christmas Spectacular. Instead of seeing the Rockettes, Conlon entered a situation like something from the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.
Security pulled Conlon aside, asked for her ID, and informed her she couldn’t get in. Facial Recognition Technology identified her as an employee of a law firm embroiled in a legal battle with Madison Square Garden (MSG) Entertainment, the company that owns the famous venue.
“It was pretty simultaneous, I think, to me, going through the metal detector,” Conlon told NBC New York, “that I heard over an intercom or loudspeaker. I heard them say a woman with long dark hair and a gray scarf.”
Conlon said the guards told her they knew she was an attorney as an explanation for booting her from the event. But while she is employed by the New Jersey law firm Davis, Saperstein and Salomon — which NBC NY reports has been entangled with MSG for years over a personal injury case that occurred in an eaterie owned by the company — Conlon said she’s “not an attorney that works on any cases against MSG” and doesn’t even practice in New York.
Conlon’s ejection wasn’t the act of overly conscientious guards. It was in line with MSG Entertainment’s policies. A rep for MSG Entertainment told Entrepreneur via email:
“MSG instituted a straightforward policy that precludes attorneys from firms pursuing active litigation against the company from attending events at our venues until that litigation has been resolved. While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment. All impacted attorneys were notified of the policy, including Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, which was notified twice. In this particular situation, only the one attorney who chose to attend despite being notified in advance that she would be denied entry, was not permitted to enter, and the rest of her group – including the Girl Scouts – were all able to attend and enjoy the show.”
Conlon’s experience, which she described as “mortifying,” only served to heat up the adversarial relationship between her firm and MSG Entertainment.
Sam Davis, a partner at Davis, Saperstein and Salomon, told NBC NY that his firm is going after the company’s liquor license.
“The liquor license that MSG got requires them to admit members of the public,” he said, “unless there are people who would be disruptive who constitute a security threat.”
Davis also said that MSG barring Conlon from the event “under the pretext of protecting any disclosure of litigation information — is absolutely absurd.”
MSG also said that they are “confident” their liquor license policy “is in compliance with all applicable laws including the New York State Liquor Authority.”
Facial recognition technology has been controversial due to concerns about its potential for abuse. Some studies have shown that facial recognition algorithms can produce inaccurate results, particularly for people with specific characteristics like darker skin. There are also concerns about the technology’s potential for tracking individuals without their knowledge or consent.
Additionally, there are fears that the technology could be used to target certain groups or individuals for discrimination or persecution.
Speaking to NBC NY, attorney Sam Davis was blunt: “The fact they’re using facial recognition to do this is frightening. It’s un-American to do this.”
In response, the email from MSG Entertainment to Entrepreneur detailed their stance on the technology: “Facial recognition technology is a useful tool widely used throughout the country, including the sports and entertainment industry, retail locations, casinos and airports to protect the safety of the people that visit and work at those locations. Our venues are worldwide destinations and several sit on major transit hubs in the heart of New York. We have always made it clear to our guests and to the public that we use facial recognition as one of our tools to provide a safe and secure environment and we will continue to use it to protect against the entry of individuals who we have prohibited from entering our venues.”