A recent incident at Radio City Music Hall involving the mother of a Girl Scout sheds light on the growing controversy surrounding facial recognition, as critics claim it’s being used to target perceived enemies – in this case, by one of the most famous companies in the country.
Kelly Conlon and her daughter arrived in New York City the weekend after Thanksgiving as part of a Girl Scout field trip to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas Spectacular show. But while her daughter, other members of the Boy Scout troop, and their mothers were allowed to enjoy the show, Conlon wasn’t allowed to.
Because to Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Conlon isn’t just any mom. They had identified her and focused on her as security guards approached her on the right as he entered the lobby.
“I think it was pretty simultaneous as I walked through the metal detector what I heard on an intercom or a speakerphone,” she told NBC New York. “I heard her say, woman with long dark hair and a gray scarf.”
She said she was asked for her name and ID.
“I think they said our recognition picked you up,” Conlon said.
A sign states that facial recognition is being used as a security measure to keep guests and staff safe. Conlon says she didn’t pose a threat, but the guards kicked her out anyway, explaining that they knew she was a lawyer.
“They knew my name before I told them. They knew the company I was associated with before I told them. And they told me I wasn’t allowed to be there,” Conlon said.
Conlon is an associate of the New Jersey-based law firm Davis, Saperstein and Solomon, which has for years been involved in a personal injury case against a restaurant now owned by MSG Entertainment.
“I don’t practice in New York. I’m not an attorney working cases against MSG,” Conlon said.
But MSG said she was banned anyway — along with other attorneys at that firm and others.
“MSG has put in place a simple policy preventing attorneys who have active litigation against the company from attending events at our venues until that litigation is resolved. While we understand that this policy may disappoint some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently unfavorable environment. All affected attorneys have been notified of the policy, including Davis, Saperstein and Salomon, who have been notified twice.” a spokesman for MSG Entertainment said in a statement.
“This whole scheme is an excuse for collectively punishing opponents who would dare to sue MSG on their multi-billion dollar network,” said Sam Davis, a partner at the firm where Conlon works.
Other companies have sued for being blacklisted. Conlon said she thinks a recent judge’s decision in one of those cases made it clear that ticket holders like her “shall not be denied entry to any show.”
MSG stated, “In this particular situation, only the one attorney who chose to attend was denied entry and the rest of their group – including the Girl Scouts – were all able to attend and enjoy the show.”
“I was just a mom who took my daughter to a Christmas show,” Conlon told I-Team. “I waited outside … It was embarrassing, it was humiliating.”
Davis is now upping the legal stakes by challenging MSG’s license with the State Liquor Authority.
“The liquor license that MSG has obtained requires that they admit members of the public unless there are individuals who would be disruptive and pose a security threat,” Davis said. “To take a mother, to separate a mother from her daughter and Girl Scouts who supervised her – and to do so under the pretense of protecting disclosure of litigation information – is absolutely absurd. The fact that they use facial recognition for this is scary. It is un-American to do so.”
A spokesman for MSG reiterated in a statement that security is their top priority and that facial recognition is just one of the methods they are using. MSG Entertainment also said it is confident its policies comply with all applicable laws, including the New York State Liquor Authority.