NEW YORK (PIX11) — In droves, one John Mayer fan after another made a beeline toward the front entrance of Madison Square Garden Wednesday night. On their way in, they passed a protest banner, alerting them to MSG Entertainment’s ongoing use of facial recognition technology inside the facility. Not surprisingly, opinions were mixed.
“Do I have a problem with that? Not really. One one hand, it’s good. They’re making sure that people who were banned are not coming in,” said one concertgoer named Jane.
Another concert goer, Nathaniel, said, “It’s not right. They can’t do stuff like that. People are a little uncomfortable with things like that. It’s America. We believe in freedom over here.”
One of the protesters told PIX11 News they showed up to send a message directly to concertgoers.
“We believe that facial recognition represents a new frontier in how we interact with public space. And we think the laws need to catch up,” said Anna Bonesteel.
MSG initially came under scrutiny a few months ago for using facial recognition technology to turn away an attorney who had a paid ticket. Their reason was because her firm is involved in litigation against the company.
In fact, MSG Entertainment is still committed to its use, telling PIX11 News, “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, in compliance with all applicable laws, as one of our tools to provide a safe and secure environment for our customers and ourselves.”
Attorney Andrew Lieb said MSG is currently not violating any discrimination laws, which cover areas such as housing but not an entertainment venue like the Garden.
“Assuming money is no object, they could do this forever because it’s not criminal to be using this facial recognition software. However, they’re having issues with the state liquor authority. They’re getting sued for not allowing people in. So there’s civil exposure to them, and they have to make a cost decision it it’s worth having the ban,” said Lieb.