Facial recognition technology has made huge strides over the last few years but has also received quite the backlash. It has been attacked for its alleged bias against people of color and critics of the technology claim its implementation is a slippery slope towards a surveillance state.

Proponents of the technology claim, that it can be used to prevent crime and make society safer. But what happens when its wrong? That’s what happened to an 18 year old who is now suing Apple for 1 billion dollars for wrongful arrest.


Recently an 18 year old named Ousmane Bah filed a lawsuit against apple on Monday for allegedly relying on a facial recognition AI, that misidentified him as a shoplifter. The primary claim of the suit is that Apple along with its contractor Security Industry Specialists caused Bah to suffer emotional trauma as a result. Apple has of course denied that it uses facial recognition in its stores.

Ousmane received a summons arraignment last summer from a Boston court for the theft of $1200 worth of products from an Apple store in the city. According to the police report, a Security Industry Specialist associate saw the offense take place on a security video and claims to have recognized Bah from a similar incident at an Apple store in Conneticut. Bah had an alibi that he was attending his senior prom in Manhattan when the crime took place. This was confirmed and the judge released him. Later the charges were dropped.


But when Bah returned home, he received multiple summons in the mail detailing allegations against him in connection with more thefts at Apple stores in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. After he was arrested the detective assigned to the case figured out that Bah did not resemble the suspect who had robbed the store in Manhattan. They told Bah that Apple had used facial recognition to identify him as the thief.

The conclusion of the investigation was that the thief had acquired an interim drivers license that Bah had lost earlier in the year and had used it as his own ID at the Manhattan store. Supposedly, the license did not have a picture of Bah on it. The lawsuit accuses Apple of falsely linking the picture of the actual thief on the cameras with the information on the interim license using facial recognition.

All charges have been dropped against Bah.


Now there are skeptics who try to claim that Apple devices store facial recognition data locally which would mean that the company hasn’t built a database or an AI for surveillance purposes. However, given Apple’s reputation most do not buy this story. The interesting thing here is the behavior of Apple that is described in this lawsuit conflicts with what the public knows about Apple’s use of facial recognition systems. This lawsuit going public has the potential to damage Apple’s reputation even further and paint them as a shady tech company who wants to spy on people and have ill intentions similar to that of Google.

Apple stores get robbed

Apple stores are routinely targeted by thieves. They have turned to facial recognition to identify them.


Facial recognition continues to fascinate and cause problems at the same time. There have been multiple controversies surrounding the use of this technology. Companies like Microsoft and Amazon have had their issues in this area as well. At some point we are going to have to take a real hard look at how this technology is being used. Otherwise, we may be on our way to a surveillance state full of problems.

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