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Teen accuses Apple Inc. of filing false theft complaints

A recently filed lawsuit accuses Apple Inc. of using facial recognition technology to track the activities of shoplifters in Illinois and around the country. According to the lawsuit, the company used the controversial software to accuse an innocent New York teenager of stealing goods worth thousands of dollars from Apple Stores in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware. The mix-up came to light when the teen was arrested in November 2018 by police in New York for stealing Apple Pencils and other items from the Boston Apple Store.

Police dropped the charges once it became clear that the teen was not the individual seen committing the crime on security camera footage. He was able to prove to police that he was attending a prom party hundreds of miles from Boston when the crime was committed. Theft charges against the teen have also been dropped in Delaware and Massachusetts.

The teen says that he was implicated because Apple Inc. linked his name to a series of thefts committed by a serial shoplifter. The serial shoplifter is said to have given Apple Inc. security personnel stolen non-photo identification bearing the teen’s name when challenged in one of the company’s stores. Apple Inc. denied using facial recognition systems to identify shoplifters but has yet to provide an alternative explanation for the events surrounding the teen and his brush with the law.

Modern technology has revolutionized law enforcement, but new software like facial recognition systems are sometimes deployed before thorough field testing has established their effectiveness. When their clients face criminal sanctions based on identifications made by unproven technology, defense attorneys may seek to have the criminal charges dismissed unless they are supported by more reliable evidence.

Source: Gizmodo, Teen Sues Apple for $1 Billion, Claiming Facial Recognition Led to False Arrest, Jennings Brown, April 23, 2019

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