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Lawsuit alleges facial recognition software led to false arrest

A lawsuit was filed against California-based Apple Inc. on April 22 by a teenager who claims that the company's facial recognition security software falsely linked him to a series of store thefts. The New York teen is seeking $1 billion in damages. The teen says that his problems began when his non-photo driver's permit was stolen. The lawsuit alleges that a serial shoplifter presented security officers at an Apple store with the stolen permit when he was asked to establish his identity. This, according to the lawsuit, set off a chain of events that linked the teen to a series of other thefts committed by the shoplifter.

The teen says that he learned of the mix-up when he was taken into custody by police in New York in November 2018 for stealing goods worth $1,200 from an Apple store in Boston. Charges against him were dropped when it became clear that he was not the individual captured by the store's security cameras. The teen was also able to prove that he was attending his senior prom at a venue in New York City when the theft occurred. Charges against the teen were filed, and subsequently dropped, in Massachusetts and Delaware and still pending against him in New Jersey.

The lawsuit claims that a New York City Police Department detective told the teen that the reason he had been linked to the series of store thefts was Apple's use of facial recognition technology to keep track of shoplifters. Apple says that it does not use facial recognition software in this way. However, the company has not provided an alternative explanation for the teen's recent spate of legal problems.

Evidence provided by facial recognition and even gait recognition software is becoming more common in criminal prosecutions, but the technology is far from perfect, and mistakes are common. When this kind of information is not backed up by eyewitness testimony or compelling physical evidence, criminal defense attorneys may seek to have the charges against their clients dismissed.

Source: Gizmodo, Teen Sues Apple for $1 Billion, Claiming Facial Recognition Led to False Arrest, Jennings Brown, April 23, 2019

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Law Offices of Catherine A. Schwartz
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