In February 2022, New Jersey Democratic State Sen. Nia Gill introduced legislation that would restrict the government's use of facial recognition software at the local and state level over the threats posed to residents' "civil rights and civil liberties."
But after what a New Jersey mom experienced when she tried to see the Rockettes with her daughter's Girls Scout group, attention is now turning to how private entities use the technology.
Kelly Conlon tried to enter Radio City Music Hall in November when Madison Square Garden Entertainment forced her to leave after she was picked up on its facial recognition scanners. Her "crime"? Working for a law firm in New Jersey that's involved in litigation with a restaurant owned by MSG.
Security Guards approached her as soon as she got into the lobby.
"It was pretty simultaneous, I think, to me, going through the metal detector, that I heard over an intercom or loudspeaker," she told NBC New York. "I heard them say woman with long dark hair and a grey scarf."
They then asked for her name and identification.
"I believe they said that our recognition picked you up," Conlon recalled.
"They knew my name before I told them. They knew the firm I was associated with before I told them. And they told me I was not allowed to be there," she added.
"I don't practice in New York. I'm not an attorney that works on any cases against MSG," Conlon continued, noting that she "was just a mom taking my daughter to see a Christmas show."
MSG said it doesn't matter—they have a blanket ban on attorneys connected to firms involved in litigation against them.
"MSG instituted a straightforward policy that precludes attorneys pursuing active litigation against the Company from attending events at our venues until that litigation has been resolved," a spokesperson for MSG Entertainment said in a statement. "While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adverse environment. All impacted attorneys were notified of the policy, including Davis, Saperstein and Salomon, which was notified twice."
A partner at the firm Conlon works at blasted MSG's enemies list.
"This whole scheme is a pretext for doing collective punishment on adversaries who would dare sue MSG in their multi-billion dollar network," said Sam Davis.
Davis is now upping the legal ante, challenging MSG’s license with the State Liquor Authority.
"The liquor license that MSG got requires them to admit members of the public, unless there are people who would be disruptive who constitute a security threat," said Davis. "Taking a mother, separating a mother from her daughter and Girl Scouts she was watching over — and to do it under the pretext of protecting any disclosure of litigation information — is absolutely absurd. The fact they’re using facial recognition to do this is frightening. It’s un-American to do this."
A spokesperson for MSG reiterated in a statement that safety is their highest priority and that facial recognition is just one of the methods they use. MSG Entertainment also said it is confident their policy is in compliance with all applicable laws, including the New York State Liquor Authority. (NBC New York)
Conlon said she waited for her daughter outside, which she said was an "embarrassing" and "mortifying" experience.
Gill's office has since said new legislation is being drafted that would also address private entities – a move praised by the ACLU of New Jersey's Deputy Policy Director, Jim Sullivan.
"Many people would find it disturbing that businesses could use new technologies to punish their own customers," Sullivan told New Jersey 101.5. "This is what can happen in the absence of guidance or rules, which is why we support legislative efforts to find a way to reign in a private company's use of invasive facial recognition tools. It's good to see that Senator Gill is working on this issue for New Jerseyans."