NJ targets facial recognition after Radio City uses tech to kick out mom
👧 NJ mom was turned away from a Rockettes because cameras detected that she happened to work for a law firm suing MSG
⚖ Lawmakers want to restrict the use and abuse of facial recognition
🚨 MSG says facial recognition ensures attendees' 'safety'
State lawmakers are looking to crack down on facial recognition tech after a New Jersey mom was turned away from seeing the Rockettes with her daughter as part of a Girl Scouts trip.
When she tried to enter Radio City Music Hall the weekend after Thanksgiving, Kelly Conlon caught a glimpse of what the future widespread use of face scanners could bring.
Conlon was detected by scanners operated by Madison Square Garden Entertainment and forced to leave, NBC New York reported. MSG's systems had identified her as an associate working for a law firm based in New Jersey. The firm was involved in a legal battle with a restaurant owned by MSG, but Conlon said she never worked on the case.
"I don’t practice in New York. I’m not an attorney that works on any cases against MSG," Conlon told NBC New York.
🔴 Bill to ban facial recognition technology abuse
In February 2022, Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, introduced a bill to restrict the use of facial recognition tech by governmental entities at the state, county, and local levels. The bill, S1715, says the technology "poses unique and significant threats to the civil rights and civil liberties" of New Jerseyans.
"Facial recognition and the algorithms that underly them strike at our fundamental constitutional right to privacy," Gill said in a statement to New Jersey 101.5. "The use of algorithms and facial recognition can violate other constitutional rights. I have legislation to ensure that our constitutional rights are not violated in the use of these technologies.”
But if does become law, the bill only addresses government entities. Private companies such as MSG Entertainment would still be able to use the tech however they see fit.
Terrell Paige, Gill's deputy chief of staff, told New Jersey 101.5 that a new bill is in the works to address private entities. Gill's office is working with the state Attorney General's Office to ensure the bill is "robust," Paige said. The bill is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks or months.
🔴 Retaliation or safety?
In a statement, an MSG Entertainment spokesperson said that their policy only denied Conlon from the Rockettes show. Her daughter and the rest of the Girl Scouts troop were allowed to attend. The statement added that "all impacted attorneys were notified of the policy."
"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. While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adverse environment."
Additionally, a sign outside the music hall states that facial recognition is used for "safety."
But MSG's use of facial recognition to boot Conlon and other attorneys has drawn criticism from civil rights advocates.
Jim Sullivan, Deputy Policy Director of the ACLU of New Jersey, called the practice "disturbing" in a statement to New Jersey 101.5.
“Many people would find it disturbing that businesses could use new technologies to punish their own customers. 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.”
Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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