MSG Entertainment facial recognition

MSG Entertainment ('MSGE') owns and runs entertainment events at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and other venues in New York City and Chicago. 

According to the New York Times, MSGE started using facial recognition at its venues in 2018 to improve the safety and security of its customers.

System databank

Operator: MSG; Madison Square Garden; Radio City Music Hall
Country: USA
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Strengthen security
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Appropriateness/need; Privacy
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Legal; Marketing

Litigant ban

In July 2022, Rolling Stone reported that MSG instituted a policy forbidding anyone in active litigation against the company from entry to the company’s venues, resulting in a number of high-profile ejections of lawyers from Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.

In a statement to ABC News, an MSGE spokesperson said 'Our policy does not unlawfully prohibit anyone from entering our venues and it is not our intent to dissuade attorneys from representing plaintiffs in litigation against us. We are merely excluding a small percentage of lawyers only during active litigation.'

Lawyer, lawmaker backlash

MSGE's ban led to a law suit against it by dozens of attorneys and their companies, with the judge ruling the company could revoke and refuse to sell tickets to the firms, but that they cannot be denied entry to a show once they arrive if they have a valid ticket.

In January 2023, a group of New York state and city lawmakers called (pdf) for MSGE’s liquor license to be revoked, and warned that MSGE could be putting a USD 43 million tax abatement at risk and that the deployment could harm free speech and non-discrimination rights.

The move prompted MSGE CEO James Dolan to sue the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA), claiming it is operating outside of its powers and that MSGE's facial recognition policy has no correlation to the consumption or distribution of alcohol. 

Dolan has also publicly threatened to dox the liquor authority’s chairman, displaying paper printed with the chair’s photo, email and phone number should the SLA go ahead with its ban.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has asked MSGE for information relating to its use of facial recognition technology to prevent attorneys from entering its venues. She also raised the possibility that its policy could be illegal.

News, commentary, analysis

Page info
Type: System
Published: January 2023
Last updated: March 2023