Dec 31, 2020 - Technology

Facial recognition tech under spotlight after 3rd false arrest

A illustration of facial recognition software.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Law enforcement's use of facial recognition faces a new wave of scrutiny because of a wrongful arrest lawsuit by Nijeer Parks, a 33-year-old Black man in New Jersey.

Why it matters: While advocates of the tech say it's a valuable tool in solving crime, facial recognition programs repeatedly show they are less accurate on people of color.

Parks spent more than a week in jail on charges of shoplifting, drug possession and assault. His case was dismissed in November 2o19.

  • Authorities used a driver's license shown during the crime to pull a photo of the perpetrator. They say the photo was a "high profile" match to Parks.
  • It's unclear which specific software was used in Parks' case

The big picture: Some jurisdictions, including Portland and San Francisco, have banned the use of facial-recognition technology in law enforcement, the Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Other companies that produce the tools have pulled back their distributions or halted police use until racial biases can be addressed.

The bottom line: Parks "is the third person known to be falsely arrested based on a bad facial recognition match," the N.Y. Times notes.

  • "In all three cases, the people mistakenly identified by the technology have been Black men."
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