NYC Considering Banning Anti-Shoplifting Technology

New York City is considering a ban on facial recognition systems that are being used to track down shoplifters. The potential change is being met with resistance from the city’s retail merchants, who have struggled with a significant recent increase in crime.

The technology has been used by a number of retailers, including supermarkets, to counter an increase in shoplifting.

New York City’s government is considering a bill that would bar the use of facial recognition unless signed off on in writing by customers.

City Councilmember Shahana Hanif (D) said that “this technology has high error rates for darker-skinned people.” Hanif is cosponsoring the bill. 

She said that the city was “headed down a dystopian path if we’re conceding that a facial recognition scan is a prerequisite to buying eggs” and argued this was similar to racial profiling against Muslims.

Should companies violate the proposed bill, they would face a $5,000 fine per violation and be on the hook for any legal fees stemming from its use. So far, 15 members of the city council have signaled their support.

The current push against facial recognition systems follows a controversy at a facility run by Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) last year. An attorney claimed that she was removed from a performance of the Radio City Rockettes after the arena used facial recognition tech to single her out.

Kelly Conlon attempted to attend the performance with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop but found herself ejected due to her job. She works for the law firm Davis, Saperstein and Solomon, which was involved in litigation against a business now owned by MSG.

According to Conlon, when she entered the Radio City Music Hall she was approached by security guards who told her that she was identified by the facility’s facial recognition system. MSG has been using the technology for the last five years.

“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,” the company said.