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Reblogged:"Surveillance:" The Next "Censorship?"

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Except for whatever it has to do to protect individual rights, there is no proper sphere for government, because that's what government is for. Any and every attempt to use government for other things is a misuse, and violates individual rights.

Following the above question, that was my first thought upon reading the news that a woman had recently been denied entry into an entertainment venue when facial recognition software determined she was an attorney fighting against the owner in court.

The above question comes almost naturally these days, with the phrase surveillance state in common currency, thanks to such abominations as China's social credit system, which is surely being used to oppress ideological and political opponents of Xi Jinping's authoritarian regime.

Unfortunately, and as with the term censorship, the word surveillance gets bandied about indiscriminately, as if the government doing something does not differ in kind from a private individual (or a collection of private individuals, like a corporation) doing the same thing.

And so we get people equating Twitter merely booting someone off its platform (which it does not owe anyone and whose property it is) with actual censorship -- which is something only a government can do.

(And which it -- the government -- did do when it pressured Twitter to suppress certain ideas and individuals. If Twitter's management had decided on their own to, say, ban an Ivermectin peddler, that's one thing. The government "suggesting" they do is quite another.)

With surveillance, we have a similar kind of confusion going on, but there is an important and subtle difference. Whereas the government should never be in the business of censorship, surveillance is simply a collective noun referring to a variety of observational techniques, the newest of which are electronic.

Whether a government should conduct surveillance is entirely a matter of why it is doing so. Should a policeman walk a beat in a neighborhood, on the lookout for signs of potential trouble? Yes. Should there be around-the-clock observation and tracking of certain individuals? That depends, and there should certainly be legal protections against abuse or harassment.

But what if a private entity does something like this?
Image by howling red, via Unsplash, license.
Kelly Conlon and her daughter came to New York City the weekend after Thanksgiving as part of a Girl Scout field trip to Radio City Music Hall to see the Christmas Spectacular show. But while her daughter, other members of the Girl Scout troop and their mothers got to go enjoy the show, Conlon wasn't allowed to do so.

That's because to Madison Square Garden Entertainment, Conlon isn't just any mom. They had identified and zeroed in on her, as security guards approached her right as he got into the lobby.


A sign says facial recognition is used as a security measure to ensure safety for guests and employees. Conlon says she posed no threat, but the guards still kicked her out with the explanation that they knew she was an attorney.

"They knew my name before I told them. They knew the firm I was associated with before I told them. And they told me I was not allowed to be there," said Conlon.

Conlon is an associate with the New Jersey based law firm, Davis, Saperstein and Solomon, which for years has been involved in personal injury litigation against a restaurant venue now under the umbrella of MSG Entertainment.
Aside from the venue perhaps warning that its management reserves the right to deny entry to someone for any reason, I see nothing wrong here. (And the sign would be just a courtesy: The owner notifies adversarial law firms of the policy this falls under.)

MSG Entertainment is not a government entity, and it owes nobody the use of its facilities. So long as the data used to make the identification did not come from some illegitimate governmental (or government-controlled) entity and were otherwise obtained legally, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this company deciding who does or doesn't gain access to its own property.

But in today's political climate, left and right alike go after the likes of Twitter for "censorship" when there is in fact ample evidence the government is at fault: You can bet money that plenty of opportunists out there will be happy to demonize MSG Entertainment and call for the government to "keep an eye on" (i.e., regulate and monitor) such surveillance schemes preemptively.

Which it will scramble to find an excuse to do, as would any fox presented with the prospect of guarding a henhouse.

-- CAV

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