Teen Says Apple's Facial Recognition Tech Got Him Arrested

He's suing for $1 billion over the matter
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2019 1:17 PM CDT
In this July 28, 2016 file photo, the Apple logo is shown on a sign hanging in front of a new Apple Store in the Williamsburg section in the Brooklyn borough of New York.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(Newser) – A New York 18-year-old says he was falsely arrested in November—and he blames Apple's facial recognition technology. Ousmane Bah says Apple uses such technology to identify shoplifters at its stores, and he's suing the tech giant for $1 billion over the matter, the New York Post reports. He says a man stole $1,200 worth of merchandise from a Boston Apple store in 2018, and he used a stolen ID that had Bah's name, address, and other personal information—but, crucially, no photo. Bah says Apple believed the man was Bah, so in the absence of a photo on the ID, it programmed its security systems to associate the man's face with Bah's name using facial recognition technology. The man then stole from Apple stores in New Jersey, Delaware, and Manhattan, and Bah got blamed for all of the thefts, according to the teen's lawsuit.

Bah says he got a Boston municipal court summons in the mail in June, then was arrested by the NYPD on Nov. 29, all because his name had been falsely connected to the thefts. But he says the warrant he was served included a picture of someone else, the Washington Post reports. Ultimately a detective watched surveillance footage from the New York store and discovered the actual suspect in the case "looked nothing like" Bah, according to the lawsuit. Charges against Bah were then dropped in almost all of the states; the New Jersey case is still pending. As for why Bah had an ID that didn't include his photo, he says it was his interim learner's permit that went missing; such documents do not include a photo. Apple responded to the suit by telling Engadget it does not use facial recognition technology at its stores. (Read more Apple stories.)

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