The ACLU has filed a formal complaint against Detroit police over what it claims is a wrongful arrest resulting from facial recognition technology.
A black man named Robert Julian-Borchak Williams was arrested after a facial recognition system falsely matched his photo with security footage of a shoplifter, according to the civil liberties group.
The New York Times reports that the ACLU is calling for all charges to be dismissed against Williams and for his name to be removed from the city’s criminal databases.
The robbery that Williams is accused of happened in October 2018, and in March 2019, a still from the store’s surveillance video was uploaded to Michigan state’s facial recognition database, according to the complaint.
Facial Recognition System, Concept Images. Portrait of young woman.
That would have generated a series of photographic matches, later provided as part of a document that said they were not “probable cause for arrest.” However, Williams’ picture was included in a photo lineup later shown to the shop’s security guard. This guard, who the ACLU says did not witness the robbery firsthand, positively identified Williams.
This eventually led to his arrest and subsequent detention for 30 hours.
Two weeks after he was arrested, Williams’ case was dismissed “without prejudice,” leaving him open to being charged again, the NYT notes. The ACLU also writes that as a result of the arrest, the man’s DNA sample, mugshot and fingerprints are on file, and that his arrest is on the record.
The complaint against Detroit comes as multiple Silicon Valley companies, including IBM and Amazon, are either abandoning facial recognition or placing temporary moratoriums on selling the controversial technology to police departments.
The Detroit police department accepted the prosecutor’s decision to dismiss the case, and as of July 2019, the department’s policy was to only use facial recognition to investigate violent crimes, the Times reports.
Facial recognition critics and some technologists have long contended that the software is biased against black people.