Facial recognition bans at MSG prompt NYS Bar to seek legal protections

November 8, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
Inside of Madison Square Garden during a hockey match.
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The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA), in a move underscoring rising concerns over privacy and civil liberties, has called on the state legislature to strengthen New York’s Civil Rights Act against the misuse of facial recognition technology by private entities.

Following a vote by its House of Delegates, the NYSBA released recommendations from its Working Group on Facial Recognition Technology, originally convened after the owner of Madison Square Garden implemented the contentious technology to blacklist attorneys involved in litigation against the venue.

NYSBA President Richard Lewis expressed alarm at the encroaching threat to personal freedoms. 

“The misuse of facial recognition technology violates civil liberties, and if it continues unchecked, it will reach into every aspect of our lives — from our ability to move around freely and associate with whom we want to our freedom to do our jobs,” said Lewis. “Lawyers should be able to represent our clients in a consumer or personal injury case against a corporation without fear of retribution.”

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The report highlighted not just entertainment venues but a broader potential for abuse, with facial recognition technology being used in retail to target suspected shoplifters without a criminal conviction, suggesting a slippery slope toward broader societal exclusions.

As part of its stance, the NYSBA is backing the state Biometric Privacy Act, currently circulating in the state legislature, which would establish clear directives for the retention and destruction of biometric data by private companies.

The urgency of the matter was reinforced by Domenick Napoletano, President-Elect and chair of the working group, who cautioned about the wider ramifications, “If an entertainment company can deny access to its adversaries, could other places used by the public — such as grocery stores, hospitals, and airports — be next?”


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