NY Lawmaker Urges Sanctions For Knicks Owner Over Facial Recognition

A New York state lawmaker is asking the National Basketball Association and National Hockey League to impose sanctions on James Dolan, owner of Madison Square Garden and the New York Knicks, due to his use of facial-recognition technology to exclude courtroom adversaries.

“The use of facial recognition technology at entertainment venues is a concerning trend to many,” state senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal said Friday in a letter to the commissioners of both sports leagues.

He writes that the technology “poses grave privacy concerns,” adding that the information that fuels the software is often collected without people's consent, and is vulnerable to security breaches because it can't be encrypted.

The lawmaker adds in his letter that the constitutions of both sports leagues empower the commissioners to impose penalties on anyone who commits conduct that is detrimental to the leagues. He is asking both commissioners to sanction Madison Square Garden and Dolan “unless they immediately cease profiling fans with facial recognition technology for non-security purposes.”



The letter comes amid increasing scrutiny of Dolan's use of facial recognition software to exclude lawyers affiliated with firms that are suing any of his venues.

Since at least last June, Madison Square Garden has been refusing to admit adversarial lawyers to sites including Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and the Beacon Theater.

The company has used facial recognition to deny admittance to a mother attempting to accompany her daughter to a Rockettes performance at Radio City, a lawyer who tried to attend a Mariah Carey concert, and attorneys with tickets to Knicks games, among others.

The State Liquor Authority is currently investigating whether Dolan has violated a state law that prohibits liquor licensees from excluding members of the public.

Dolan on Thursday fired back in an interview with WNYW’s Good Day New York anchor Rosanna Scotto, saying he may “shut down all the alcohol in the building” for one night, in order to “call attention” to the State Liquor Authority's threats.

Earlier this week, New York State Attorney General Letitia James said in a letter to Dolan demanding to know the justifications for his policy.

She said in the letter that Dolan's ban on attorneys may violate laws that prohibit discrimination and retaliation over protected activity.

“Forbidding entry to lawyers representing clients who have engaged in litigation against the Company may dissuade such lawyers from taking on legitimate cases, including sexual harassment or employment discrimination claims,” she wrote.

Madison Square Garden said in a statement issued Thursday that the ban doesn't apply to attorneys who have brought claims related to sexual harassment or employment discrimination.

James also noted in her letter that New York City civil rights law prohibits the “wrongful refusal of admission to and ejection from public entertainment and amusement.”

Some of the lawyers denied entry, or threatened with exclusion, are currently suing under that law.

New York City regulates biometric privacy, but doesn't prevent companies from using facial recognition. Instead, the city's biometric privacy law, which went into effect last year, requires companies to post notices about their use of facial recognition technology, and prohibits companies from selling biometric identifiers.

A recently drafted New York City bill would prohibit the use of biometric surveillance tech in places of public accomodation, according to a City Council staffer. That bill hasn't yet been introduced.

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