An attorney from a law firm suing the parent company of Radio City Music Hall was kicked out of the venue after facial recognition technology identified her when she tried to see a Rockettes performance with her daughter and a pack of Girl Scouts.
Kelly Conlon, a senior associate with the New Jersey personal injury firm Davis, Saperstein and Salomon — which is representing a client suing a restaurant owned by the parent company, MSG Entertainment — told NBC New York that security guards approached her and asked for identification as soon as she arrived on the weekend after Thanksgiving. The guards ultimately turned her away from the show even though she is not involved in her firm's litigation against the company. Conlon’s daughter and the rest of the Girl Scouts were able to attend the performance, she told the station.
“I was just a mom taking my daughter to see a Christmas show,” she told NBC New York. “I did wait outside. ... It was embarrassing. It was mortifying.”
A partner in the firm, Sam Davis, told NBC New York that Conlon’s experience highlights the potential impacts of the widespread use of facial recognition technology, which has come under fire for contributing to wrongful arrests as a policing tool and surveillance of people of color and other more vulnerable populations without their consent.
“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,” Davis told NBC New York. “The fact they’re using facial recognition to do this is frightening. It’s un-American to do this.”
MSG Entertainment, which also operates Madison Square Garden and several other major venues, introduced a policy in June barring lawyers from firms suing it from setting foot in its venues while litigation is ongoing.
About two weeks before Conlon was barred, her firm filed a complaint against the company's policy with the New York State Liquor Authority, alleging that MSG Entertainment’s liquor license requires it to admit members of the public to its venues, other than people who may be disruptive and cause security threats, they told NBC New York.
A spokesperson for the liquor authority confirmed to NBC News that the agency opened the investigation, “as we do whenever we receive credible complaints,” adding that state law mandates that “all retail licensees allow the general public access into their premises.”
Davis, Saperstein and Salomon did not respond to questions from NBC News, including whether Conlon and other lawyers at the firm were made aware of MSG Entertainment’s policy. A spokesperson for MSG Entertainment said it notified the firm of the rule twice in recent months — including on the day the firm filed the complaint with state liquor regulators.
MSG Entertainment told NBC News in a statement that facial recognition is just one of the methods it uses to ensure safety, adding that officials are confident their policy complies with all applicable laws.
The spokesperson declined to share how the company obtains data used in its facial recognition technology; Davis, Saperstein and Salomon includes photos of its attorneys on its website. The spokesperson added that a sign outside Radio City Music Hall informs visitors that facial recognition technology is among the security measures it has in place.
The spokesperson called the policy “straightforward” and said attorneys at firms pursuing litigation against it are welcome at its venues once the litigation is resolved.
“While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment,” MSG Entertainment’s statement continued. “All impacted attorneys were notified of the policy, including Davis, Saperstein and Salomon, which was notified twice. 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, and the rest of her group — including the Girl Scouts — were all able to attend and enjoy the show.”
The spokesperson added that the policy applies to all attorneys at affected firms because the company doesn’t know which one are working on litigation against it and because it prevents the policy from targeting individual attorneys.
The policy has come under fire from several firms involved in lawsuits against it, some of whom have unsuccessfully challenged the ban in court; at a hearing last month, Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick of Delaware Chancery Court called the policy “the stupidest thing I’ve ever read,” Reuters reported.
New York court records show that more than 20 active lawsuits are pending against MSG Entertainment and its properties in the state.