This article is more than 1 year old

Lawyer mom barred from Rockettes show by facial recognition tech

No Girl Scout cookies for you

A Girl Scout troop trip to see the Rockettes in New York City didn't go as planned for mom Kelly Conlon, who was turned away at the door of Radio City Music Hall because a facial recognition system pinned her as a prohibited person.

The reason, Conlon told NBC New York, was because she's an associate at New Jersey law firm Davis, Saperstein and Solomon. She doesn't practice law in New York, but her firm's offices there have been involved in years-long personal injury litigation against a restaurant now owned by Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG).

MSG also handles affairs at Radio City Music Hall and so, despite her lack of involvement in cases involving MSG, Conlon was escorted off the premises. 

"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," Conlon said.

MSG told NBC New York that it has a policy of prohibiting attorneys involved in litigation against the biz from attending events at its venues, and that Conlon's firm had been warned twice about staff not attending MSG events. 

"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," MSG told The Register in an email. 

MSG further told us Conlon's firm was sent emails on October 28 and November 14, and that it has no way to know which lawyers are involved in litigation. As such, MSG makes total bans on all attorneys at a firm.

The company also noted that MSG's use of facial recognition is clearly advertised to guests, adding "we will continue to use it to protect against the entry of individuals who we have prohibited from entering our venues." 

Welcome to the garden of surveillance

Facial recognition has been in use at Madison Square Garden - the venue itself - since at least 2018, when The New York Times reported the arena was scanning the faces of customers. Representatives of Madison Square Garden claimed at the time it improved security and helped "provide a safe and wonderful experience" for guests.

Privacy advocates disagree on the effectiveness of facial recognition, and have prevailed in some cases attempting to restrict the use of such technology. Clearview AI, a startup that scraped images from social media pages to build a facial ID database, settled a lawsuit with the ACLU earlier this year that included a  promise to restrict sale of its database to US businesses. 

Clearview was also forced to cough up millions in fines to the UK's privacy watchdog for scraping the web for face data.

MSG didn't tell us which facial recognition software it uses, but said that only individuals it prohibits from entering its venues are in the database.

The failure rate of facial recognition - especially when it comes to identifying women and minorities - has been well demonstrated, and Congress even decided it was a big enough deal to hold hearings on in 2019. 

Regardless of the law, Conlon's fellows at the firm aren't letting it slide, and partner Sam Davis believes they might have the right angle to get MSG to stop barring entry: Threaten the group's liquor license.

According to Davis, MSG's license requires it to admit all members of the public who aren't deemed to be disruptive or a security threat. "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," Davis said.

"This whole scheme is a pretext for doing collective punishment on adversaries who would dare sue MSG in their multi-billion dollar network."

"We are confident that our policy is in compliance with all applicable laws including the New York State Liquor Authority," told us. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like