A New York teen’s life was made miserable because of mistaken identity cases caused by Apple’s facial recognition software, according to a $1 billion lawsuit filed against Apple on Monday.
Ousmane Bah’s lawsuit claims that someone stole his driver’s permit—which did not have a face photo—and then used that permit to wrongly identify themselves as Bah when they were caught stealing $1,200 worth of Apple products, mostly Apple pencils, from a Boston store location.
Bah asserts that when the alleged thief was caught and falsely presented themselves as Bah, Apple security took a photo of the thief and wrongly attached it to Bah’s personal information in a security system. So when other alleged thefts were committed by that person, Apple falsely determined Bah to be the alleged criminal, according to the suit.
Bah claimed in the suit he had never been to Boston and he was at his senior prom in New York City the day of the alleged theft.
New York police officers arrested Bah at his home at 4 am on November 29. But when a detective saw the security footage from an Apple store, the officer realized the person did not resemble Bah. According to the suit, the NYPD detective told Bah that Apple security uses facial recognition technology. And the detective suspected that during one of the alleged thief’s many transgressions at Apple locations across multiple states, the alleged thief had presented Bah’s driver’s permit and falsely identified themselves as Bah to an Apple-employed loss prevention officer.
Apple did not immediately respond to a Gizmodo request for comment, but an Apple spokesperson told Engadget that Apple does not use facial recognition in its stores. We have asked Apple if the company stores photos of people and uses those photos to identify people it believes have committed crimes in the stores (without the use of facial recognition technology). We will update this post if Apple responds.
The lawsuit claims this wrongful arrest affected Bah’s college education because he was supposed to take a midterm exam that day. Bah claims he has had to miss multiple days of school due to his necessary travels to different states to respond to charges.
“Throughout his entire first year of college, Mr. Bah experienced constant anxiety and fear that he could be arrested at any moment,” the suit states.
Charges against Bah have been dropped in New York, Delaware, and Massachusetts, but not New Jersey.
This is a confusing case, and the lawsuit may be misguided in how it presents Apple’s facial recognition technology. It’s impossible to know at this point exactly what errors and missteps occurred, but it certainly seems that Bah could have been screwed over by Apple’s negligence.