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New York Attorney General Probing Madison Square Garden’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology

New York Attorney General

Letitia James

is asking

Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp.

MSGE 3.08%

for information related to its alleged use of facial recognition technology to prevent certain ticket holders from entering its venues.

The state attorney general’s office said Wednesday the company, which operates Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall in New York City, has reportedly used the technology to bar lawyers from firms who are suing the company over unrelated matters from seeing sporting events or concerts.

The company’s actions appear to have affected attorneys at more than 90 law firms, and may violate New York’s civil- and human-rights laws, the office said.

“MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” Ms. James said in a statement. “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 the letter, the attorney general’s office said it was looking into whether the facial recognition software at issue is reliable and has safeguards to prevent bias. It asked the company to explain what efforts it is making to ensure its facial-recognition technology won’t lead to discrimination. It gave the company until Feb. 13 to respond. 

An MSG Entertainment spokeswoman said its policy doesn’t unlawfully prohibit people from entering its venues. “We are merely excluding a small percentage of lawyers only during active litigation,” the spokeswoman said. “To even suggest anyone is being excluded based on the protected classes identified in state and federal civil rights laws is ludicrous.”

Three law firms—Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, Greenberg Law and Burns & Harris—have sued the company, saying MSG Entertainment banned all of their lawyers from attending sporting events and concerts because the firms represented plaintiffs suing the company. In one case, a Burns & Harris attorney said she wasn’t allowed into a Mariah Carey concert in December at Madison Square Garden and was asked to leave the premises.

Judges have given some of the law firms partial victory. In the Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP case, for example, New York State Supreme Court Judge Lyle Frank ruled the company couldn’t stop anyone who had a valid ticket from seeing a show or concert, but could deny them from buying a ticket or revoking the ticket before the show. The ruling didn’t include sports events.

An MSG Entertainment spokeswoman said the company is appealing.

“We continue to vigorously defend and enforce our policy, and remain confident the Appellate Division will rule in our favor on our full appeal,” the spokeswoman said. 

Write to Dean Seal at [email protected] and Joseph Pisani at [email protected]

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