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teen suing apple for facial recognition false arrest

April 26, 2019
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Ousmane Bah, 18, had his ID stolen by a thief fearless enough to boost Apple stores, now, unfortunately, that predicament has now resulted in the New York teen suing Apple for $1 billion for using shoddy facial recognition practices to blame him for theft, according to the New York Post. The Apple-ID Bandit was caught stealing $1,200 worth of merchandise from an Apple store in Boston, handing over Bah’s identification as his own. The ID listed Bah’s name, address and other details but had no picture. According to Bah, Apple took the thief’s word for it and programmed Bah’s details onto the thief’s face. The teenager didn’t even know this was happening until he received a Boston municipal court summons in the mail in June.

The Apple-ID Bandit had also robbed Apple stores in New Jersey, Delaware and Manhattan according to the suit against Bah. He was arrested on November 29th but when the detective working the case viewed the surveillance footage from the Manhattan store, they concluded the suspect “looked nothing like Bah” according to his lawsuit. Bloomberg reported that Apple has stated they do not use facial recognition in their stores — knowing Apple’s track record playing fast and loose with customer data, we’ll have to wait for the lawsuit to determine the truth of that matter. As for the cases against Bah, all have dropped, save for New Jersey where the suit is still pending.

Orwellian society arrived in plain sight and the gaps in representation of those that write the code running technological advancements are cropping up in the products. Airport scanner machines that can’t read Black hair. Self-driving cars that don’t see Black people. To think we thought an Apple watch that couldn’t detect Black and Brown skin was the worst of it — every other week, we are shown that it was merely the beginning. Film, TV and literature are the only places where the role of tech in hyper-surveillance is taken as seriously as it should be. Apple’s “use of facial recognition software in its stores to track individuals suspected of theft is the type of Orwellian surveillance that consumers fear, particularly as it can be assumed that the majority of consumers are not aware that their faces are secretly being analyzed,” the lawsuit states.

We are only beginning to confront the full brunt of the surveillance culture we signed ourselves into in those lengthy Apple contracts we don’t bother reading. We hand over our lives for convenience and that power is being used by people who have shown themselves as irresponsible. Apple can deny their use of facial recognition but they’re obviously not using a background check so how was the Apple-ID Bandit flagged? Knowledge holds unspeakable power and innovation has always been poisoned by the powerful. Bah deserves justice and we hope he gets it.