ACLU Statement on Second Wrongful Arrest due to Face Recognition Technology

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
July 10, 2020 2:00 pm

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DETROIT — The Detroit Free Press reported this morning that Michael Oliver, a 25-year-old Black man from Detroit, was wrongfully arrested because of a false face recognition match last year. This now appears to be the second known case of someone being wrongfully arrested in the United States as a result of face recognition technology. The American Civil Liberties Union last month shared the story of Robert Williams, who was arrested and detained for nearly 30 hours for a crime he did not commit.

Below is comment from Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan legal director:

“We warned Robert Williams would not be the only person to be wrongfully accused of a crime they did not commit because of a flawed technology law enforcement should not be using. Sadly, it appears we were right and there are still likely many more people we will learn about nationwide. The Detroit Police Department and Wayne County Prosecutor should not need a new policy to know not to arrest someone without having conducted a proper investigation. These are bedrock principles of constitutional law.

“Detroit police’s new policy is a fig leaf that provides little to no protection against a dangerous technology subjecting an untold number of people to the disasters that Robert Williams and Michael Oliver have already experienced. Lawmakers must take urgent action to stop law enforcement use of this technology until it can be determined what policy, if any, can effectively prevent this technology’s harms. At the same time, police and prosecutors nationwide should review all cases involving the use of this technology and should notify all individuals charged as a result of it. This technology is dangerous when wrong and dangerous when right.”

Since the ACLU filed a complaint against Detroit police on behalf of Robert Williams, the city has not turned over the case files the family has requested for months, committed to not refile charges against Robert Williams, or stopped using the technology to ensure what happened to the Williams family does not happen to another family. Detroit Police Chief Craig did, however, admit that the face recognition technology they are using has a 96 percent error rate. The company that supplies the technology, DataWorks Plus, is now subject to a congressional inquiry.

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