Apple sued as teen blames facial biometrics for alleged false arrest

A student in New York is suing Apple after being arrested for theft, which he says is due to a false identification by the company’s facial recognition technology, Bloomberg reports.

Police arrested 18-year-old Ousmane Bah at his New York home in November, producing a warrant with a photo that Bah says does not resemble him, and charged him with several thefts from Apple stores. One of the thefts took place in Boston on the same day in June as Bah says he was attending his senior prom in Manhattan.

Bah is seeking $1 billion in damages in the District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), alleging he was forced to defend himself against multiple false allegations and experienced “severe stress and hardship.” Security Industry Specialists Inc. was also named in the suit, and both the security company and Apple declined to comment.

The alleged mistaken identity may stem from a non-photo learner’s permit, which Bah said he had previously lost, and may have been fraudulently used as identification by the real thief in Apple stores.

In other words, the biometric system may have correctly recognized the person, but identified the thief based on impersonation. This is in contrast with some other controversial deployments of facial recognition, such as by South Wales Police at a soccer match in 2017, which generated numerous false matches.

A survey by Oracle last year showed that a majority of consumers in developing countries approve of the use of facial recognition for retail security, but only 26 percent of those in developed markets.

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