A man in Michigan is suing the Detroit Police Department after its facial recognition technology falsely identified him as a shoplifting suspect.
According to Complex, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint on behalf of a 43-year-old Black man named Robert Williams, who was wrongfully charged with theft in 2018.
Investigators reportedly used facial recognition technology from a grainy surveillance video to identify Williams as the thief.
The Detroit police department reviewed the surveillance footage, conducted interviews with eyewitnesses, and put Williams in a photo lineup they presented to a store security guard.
The guard, who wasn’t in the store at the time of the crime, reportedly picked Williams out from the lineup and cops then got a warrant for Williams’ arrest and took him into custody in January 2020. Williams was held in custody for 30 hours and forced to sit through an interrogation.
“I came home from work and was arrested in my driveway in front of my wife and daughters, who watched in tears because a computer made an error,” Williams described in a press release from the ACLU. “This never should have happened, and I want to make sure that this painful experience never happens to anyone else,” he said.
The ACLU said facial recognition software has been widely criticized because of its poor accuracy rates for many years. Studies have shown that this type of technology often misidentifies “Black people, especially in cases like this one when the photo is grainy, the lighting is poor, and the suspect is not looking at the camera.”
Facial recognition technology has been known to be so unreliable that many cities like Boston, San Francisco and New Orleans have banned its use.
BREAKING: We're filing a complaint against Detroit police for wrongfully arresting Robert Williams, an innocent Black man — all because face recognition technology can't tell Black people apart.
Officers hauled him away in front of his kids and locked him up for 30 hours. pic.twitter.com/84XJs0XWqu
— ACLU (@ACLU) June 24, 2020