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How Madison Square Garden Uses Facial Recognition Technology

Facial recognition technology isn't exactly new. Initial work on the breakthrough started in the mid 1960s, but development really picked up shortly after the turn of the 21st century. Although there are some valuable applications for the technology, there are some scary ones, too – like entities using facial recognition technology on an unknowing public.

Although it might seem like something out of the latest paranoia novel, cases like this are popping up more and more frequently – and the most recent example involves New York City's Madison Square Garden.

What is Madison Square Garden?

Madison Square Garden is one of the most well-known arenas in the United States. It regularly hosts sporting events of all kinds, including basketball, hockey, boxing and professional wrestling, as well as live concerts and various forms of entertainment.

Due to the size and prolific nature of the arena itself, as well as some of the acts that play there, it goes without saying that there are some highly sophisticated security measures in place – and it's easy to see why they don't want their security tools leaked to the general public. Nonetheless, their secret facial recognition program is troubling to many.

Officials with MSG are not denying the claim. Instead they released a statement which reads, in part: "MSG continues to test and explore the use of new technologies to ensure we’re employing the most effective security procedures to provide a safe and wonderful experience for our guests."

Recognizing the Facial Recognition Protocol

News of MSG's facial recognition program was first broke by the New York Times in early 2018. Although nobody is certain when the technology was installed or first used at Madison Square Garden, they're not the first sports arena in the U.S. to do so. At least two other facilities have already tested out the technology.

Officials with the N.B.A. fully support the use of facial recognition technology. A recent statement released by Mike Bass, a spokesperson for the organization, said, in part: "Nothing is more important to us than the safety and security of the fans, players, team and arena staff at our games. The league and our teams are exploring the use of all state-of-the-art technology, including facial recognition, to ensure that we have industry-best security measures to protect all those in our arenas."

Does it Work?

While most experts agree that facial recognition technology has the potential to be useful, it's less effective when used by private businesses and entities. Without access to law enforcement databases and watch lists, it might even amount to a serious waste of resources. Such systems depend on deep troves of stored data to match profiles with known offenders or wanted criminals -- or they're effectively rendered useless.

The Future of Facial Recognition Technology

Whether you love it or hate it, facial recognition technology is here to stay. Although it currently exists in very rudimentary forms, some of which are more effective than others, experts continue to develop, expand and refine the technology for future use.

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