WaPo: I was wrongfully arrested because of facial recognition. Why are police allowed to use it?

WaPo: I was wrongfully arrested because of facial recognition. Why are police allowed to use it? by Robert Williams:

I never thought I’d have to explain to my daughters why Daddy got arrested. How does one explain to two little girls that a computer got it wrong, but the police listened to it anyway?

. . .

The next morning, two officers asked if I’d ever been to a Shinola watch store in Detroit. I said once, many years ago. They showed me a blurry surveillance camera photo of a black man and asked if it was me. I chuckled a bit. “No, that is not me.” He showed me another photo and said, “So I guess this isn’t you either?” I picked up the piece of paper, put it next to my face and said, “I hope you guys don’t think that all black men look alike.”

The cops looked at each other. I heard one say that “the computer must have gotten it wrong.” I asked if I was free to go now, and they said no. I was released from detention later that evening, after nearly 30 hours in holding.

I eventually got more information from an attorney referred to me by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. Someone had stolen watches, and the store owner provided surveillance footage to the Detroit Police Department. They sent that footage to the Michigan State Police, who then ran it through their facial-recognition system. That system incorrectly spit out a photograph of me pulled from an old driver’s license picture.

Federal studies have shown that facial-recognition systems misidentify Asian and black people up to 100 times more often than white people. Why is law enforcement even allowed to use such technology when it obviously doesn’t work? I get angry when I hear companies, politicians and police talk about how this technology isn’t dangerous or flawed. What’s worse is that, before this happened to me, I actually believed them. I thought, what’s so terrible if they’re not invading our privacy and all they’re doing is using this technology to narrow in on a group of suspects?

This entry was posted in Surveillance technology. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.