A student is suing Apple for $1bil claiming he was falsely arrested after Apple’s facial recognition system mistakenly linked him to a series of thefts.
Ball don’t lie but photos (allegedly) do
Ousmane Bah, an 18-year old from NY, was arrested last November for stealing from Apple stores with a warrant that included a photo that didn’t look anything like him. One of the theft incidents he was originally linked to happened in Boston but Bah says he was attending his senior prom in Manhattan that day.
How did that happen?
Bah speculates a non-photo learner’s permit ID he had lost earlier may have been submitted as the registration ID by the real thief at Apple stores. The facial recognition system at Apple stores, then put the thief’s face to his name.
What did Apple say about the suit?
Here’s where things get confusing. Apple’s spokesperson said the company doesn’t use facial recognition tech in its stores.
John Reinhold, the NYPD detective who in the lawsuit said that Apple uses facial recognition to identify theft suspects, agreed that Apple doesn’t use the tech in its stores. Reinhold, however, also stood by his statements in the lawsuit.
Turns out there was a second defendant in the lawsuit – a security firm called SIS that apparently has had a long relationship with Apple. So it’s possible that it was SIS’s facial recognition tech that falsely connected Bah to the thefts, giving Apple leeway to say that they technically don’t use facial recognition themselves.
Big brother is real
Whatever the case, there’s a growing concern about the invasiveness of facial recognition technology. Last month, IARPA, the US govt intelligence unit, posted a facial recognition project on a federal contract database looking for partners who will provide them footages of 1000’s of pedestrians who are unaware that they’re on camera. Spooky.