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False charges from faulty facial recognition

On Behalf of | Jul 23, 2021 | Criminal Law |

Technological advances have been widely embraced across California. While tech companies have helped to shape the state’s economy, the use of certain types of technology within the criminal justice system is problematic. One type that is becoming more widespread among law enforcement agencies is facial recognition technology. However, using it to identify suspects is problematic and can result in false arrests.

What is facial recognition technology?

Facial recognition technology is computer software that uses different points on a subject’s face to match his or her picture to another photo. While facial technology companies claim that their software is highly accurate, there are known problems with it. Facial tech companies have sold their products to law enforcement agencies. The agencies use the technology to match photographs from driver’s license databases and mugshots to stills from surveillance videos at crime scenes. However, many of these stills are blurry or grainy, making it difficult to pick out the pictured person’s features. The algorithms used by the software also tend to return false-positive matches when the software is used to try to identify suspects who are brown or black.

False arrests from facial recognition

Many people have been falsely arrested after being identified with facial recognition software. In one case, a black man was falsely identified as a suspect in a theft of watches. The police took him into custody in front of his wife and children based solely on the facial recognition software match between a surveillance video still and an old driver’s license photo. The police did not have any other evidence to support his arrest and failed to tell him why he was being taken into custody or to check whether or not he might have been somewhere else at the time of the incident. After spending some time in jail, the man’s criminal defense attorney was able to get the charges dismissed. He is now pursuing a lawsuit against the law enforcement officers who arrested him.

While technological advances have made many aspects of life easier, they are not infallible. Police officers should not be allowed to arrest people based solely on facial recognition matches. Instead, courts should require police officers to have more evidence to support probable cause for arrests.