NEW YORK (PIX11) — Madison Square Garden’s use of facial recognition technology has been a perplexing topic among sports fans.
“They’re able to catch maybe more bad people. The flip side of that is, what else are they using that image for?” said Rich, a sports fan.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James and MSG Entertainment do not see eye to eye when it comes to the company’s controversial use of the technology to ban certain customers from its venues.
On Wednesday, James sent a letter to MSG Entertainment, which read in part, “MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas. 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.”
MSG argued it used facial recognition technology to turn away an attorney – with a paid ticket – from MSG because her firm is involved in litigation against the company.
But an MSG spokesperson told PIX11 News:
“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.”
New York State Sen. Brad Hoylman said efforts are underway to close a loophole he says MSG is exploiting.
“Civil rights law protects individuals from being denied entry into areas of public accommodation. We want to close that loophole. In addition to that, we need to set up regulations around the use of facial recognition technology,” said Hoylman.
Privacy advocates say the technology’s shortcomings are amplified by its tendency to misidentify certain demographic groups.
“The problem with facial recognition is that it’s biased and error prone. We know the technology is wrong, more often for Black and Latinx individuals,” one advocate said.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office found more than a dozen federal agencies are already accessing facial recognition across the country. But a 2019 federal study found, “Among U.S.-developed algorithms, there were similar high rates of false positives in one-to-one matching for Asians, African Americans and native groups.”
Civil rights attorney Andrew Lieb said that even if MSG is blocked from using the technology, other private firms might still get the green light.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, private businesses can use facial recognition technology to ban people,” said Lieb. “There’s no law that stops them from doing that. Our anti-discrimination laws are based on your demographic. So if they just want to ban you because you were previously someone they don’t like, they can kick you out.”