ACLU: Facial recognition leads to Detroit man being wrongfully arrested

A failed facial recognition match led to a wrongful arrest in Detroit, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleged in a complaint Wednesday.

Robert Williams, a Black man, was held for more than a day in January after his driver’s license photo was matched to surveillance video of a shoplifter.

Officers released him after admitting “the computer must have gotten it wrong,” Williams said. The charge against him has been dismissed.

This case may be the first national example of facial recognition leading to a wrongful arrest, and highlights biases advocates have pointed to in the technology.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal agency within the Commerce Department, released an expansive study in December finding that the majority of facial recognition systems have “demographic differentials” that can worsen their accuracy based on a person’s age, gender or race. 

The ACLU of Michigan’s complaint calls on the Detroit Police Department to halt its use of facial recognition.

The Hill has reached out to a representative of the department for comment.

Nationwide protests against police brutality have renewed scrutiny of facial recognition systems, prompting tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft and IBM to scale back their sales of the software to law enforcement at the state and local level.

Tags ACLU Amazon American Civil Liberties Union Face ID Facial recognition software Facial recognition system facial recognition technology IBM Microsoft

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