Teenager sues Apple for $1 billion over ‘facial recognition false arrest’

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Tim Cook, Apple

An American teenager is suing Apple for $1 billion over a false arrest that he says happened because of Apple’s facial recognition technology.

The 18-year-old was arrested in November 2018 following a series of thefts from Apple Stores, during which the real culprit used an ID that featured the complainant’s name and address.

But because the ID had no photo, the arrested teen claims in the lawsuit that Apple’s in-store facial recognition software linked his details to the actual perpetrator’s face.

The complainant has shown that he was actually at his school prom at the time of one of the thefts, and Engadget reports that a detective who reviewed Apple’s in-store surveillance footage determined that he does not bear any physical resemblance to the thief.

The lawsuit comes during a period of intense scrutiny of the use of facial recognition techniques by the tech giants. As we reported last week, activist shareholders in Amazon are planning to vote to ban the company from using these technologies until it can be independently determined that they do not “cause or contribute to actual or potential violations of human rights.”

These concerns are likely to be further deepened by the Apple case, which will raise new questions about consumers’ lack of knowledge about the way facial recognition is used. The lawsuit argues that Apple’s “use of facial recognition software in its stores to track individuals suspected of theft is the type of Orwellian surveillance that consumers fear, particularly as it can be assumed that the majority of consumers are not aware that their faces are secretly being analysed.”

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