Student Files $1 Billion Lawsuit Against Apple Over Supposedly Faulty Facial Recognition Tech That Falsely Accused Him Of Theft

from the probably-something-low-tech-going-on-here dept

An 18-year-old resident of New York City is suing Apple for $1 billion. His lawsuit alleges Apple uses facial recognition technology as part of its stores’ security systems and that this led directly to him being accused of multiple thefts across a handful of states… despite him bearing zero resemblance to the thief caught on tape.

Ousmane Bah’s lawsuit [PDF] alleges Apple failed in its duty of care by attributing all these thefts to him, despite him not being the thief, resulting in numerous harms and injuries.

As a result of this action, Defendant’s facial recognition technology associated the face of the perpetrator of multiple crimes with Mr. Bah’s name and address. This led to Mr. Bah being charged with multiple crimes of larceny across a number of states.

Mr. Bah has been undoubtedly harmed by Defendant’s wrongful actions. He has been forced to travel to multiple states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Delaware. He has also been subject to a shocking and traumatic arrest made by the NYPD at his home at four o’clock in the morning.

Mr. Bah’s education has also been negatively affected due to Defendant’s actions. He has been forced to miss multiple days of school in order to travel in response to charges wrongfully made against him. Additionally, on the day that he was arrested in New York, he was supposed to take a midterm exam. His grade was negatively affected.

But while the lawsuit leans into the facial recognition theory, Apple has stated it does not use this tech in its store security systems — ones run by Security Industry Specialists, Inc., which is the other defendant named in Bah’s lawsuit.

While facial recognition tech is definitely in Apple’s wheelhouse, to date it’s only used as a biometric security feature. Phone owners can unlock their phones using their faces — something that’s definitely handy, if not of much help when Constitutional rights are at stake.

Bah’s lawsuit leans into this theory, peppering it with links to Face ID articles and footnotes expressing concern about facial recognition tech’s notorious unreliability. But Bah’s lawsuit narrative seems to undercut his claims about facial recognition tech and the damage done.

There’s a far more reasonable explanation for what happened here, and it’s all in the narrative and allegations. This seems to be an old school case of mistaken identity, rather than unproven tech fingering the wrong suspect.

Bah had recently applied for a New York driver’s license. He had a photoless paper permit to tide him over until his actual ID was mailed to him. He lost this permit, which then apparently made its way into the thief’s hands and, ultimately, into the hands of Apple’s security people.

This information was delivered to him by an NYPD detective’s educated guesses about the source of theft claims against Bah.

Detective Reinhold of the NYPD soon realized that Mr. Bah was wrongfully arrested and that he was not the suspect of the crimes perpetrated against Defendant. Detective Reinhold stated that he had viewed the surveillance video from the Manhattan store and concluded that the suspect “looked nothing like” Mr. Bah.

At that point, Detective Reinhold also explained that Defendant’s security technology identifies suspects of theft using facial recognition technology. Further, he suspected that the person who had committed the crimes must have presented Mr. Bah’s interim permit as identification during one of his multiple offenses against Defendant which took place over many months and in multiple states.

Detective Reinhold’s speculation about facial recognition tech may be faulty, but the fact that the suspect presented a photoless ID identifying himself as Ousmane Bah likely explains why Apple reported the faux Bah to the police. When the suspect stole things from other stores, security personnel saw it was the same person they only knew as Bah from the ID the suspect had presented to them.

Since Apple didn’t have a photo to cross-reference with its camera footage, the Bah seen in the recordings was the only Bah it knew, even if it wasn’t actually Ousmane Bah, upstanding citizen and recent high school graduate. Fortunately for the real Bah, charges have been dropped in all but one case. New Jersey is the sole holdout but those charges will likely follow the rest into the prosecutor’s trash can.

Unfortunately for Bah, bogus charges result in real hardships, real reputational damage, and one very real 4 a.m. arrest. But is that $1 billion-worth of damages? It’s highly unlikely Bah will walk away with anything approaching this amount. In fact, Apple’s good faith efforts to catch a thief known only as “Ousmane Bah” don’t really show the company acting negligently. It was working with the information it had. The information may have been bad, but Apple didn’t have any way of knowing that when it turned over information to law enforcement.

Simply saying something does not make it so — which is definitely going to get pointed out by a judge when they reach this part of Bah’s arguments:

The identification of Mr. Bah and subsequent charges filed against him, as well as the traumatic arrest which took place at his home, were completely preventable by Defendant. All of these events were caused by Defendant’s negligent acceptance of an interim permit, which did not contain a photo, did not properly describe the suspect presenting it, and clearly stated that it could not be used for identification purposes, as a valid form of identification.

Additionally, had Defendant taken action to correct their error after it had become aware that its facial recognition technology had continuously wrongfully implicated Mr. Bah, further injury could easily have been avoided.

It’s tough to “easily avoid” something Apple wasn’t aware of until after Bah’s arrest by the NYPD. Only after this arrest occurred did information begin to circulate that Bah wasn’t the thief in the security videos — information that first made its way to the Boston PD, not to Apple’s security team.

Bah claims Apple kept “prosecuting” these charges even after it might have been aware it had misidentified the suspect. But Apple doesn’t prosecute charges. Prosecutors do. There’s nothing on the record at this point indicating Apple security was approached by law enforcement with information showing the wrong person had been named as a suspect but chose to continue pressing charges against Bah.

In the end, this appears to be a very unfortunate situation in which everyone did what they could but still ended up harming a teen with a clean criminal record. Apple worked with the information it had, aided in part by Bah never reporting his interim ID card going missing. The officers who did handle Bah’s cases discovered he was the wrong person, passed that information on to others, and had prosecutors drop the charges. Facial recognition tech was dragged into this lawsuit via speculation from an NYPD detective, but Bah’s narrative is just as speculative, accusing Apple of using faulty tech when it most likely used tech — CCTV — everyone’s been using for years.

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Comments on “Student Files $1 Billion Lawsuit Against Apple Over Supposedly Faulty Facial Recognition Tech That Falsely Accused Him Of Theft”

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Anonymous Coward says:

"Bah had recently applied for a New York driver’s license. He had a photoless paper permit to tide him over until his actual ID was mailed to him."

New York must be literally a half-century behind the times. Drivers licenses [w/photo] in many if not most states have been printed up and issued on the spot ever since Polaroid film made this possible. It’s hard to believe that New York state’s DMV is still sending out film to the photo processing lab and waiting to get it developed (assuming that such film developing labs even exist in this country anymore)

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re:

NY DMV says the mailing is to insure that the "right person" gets the photo ID.

I’m more pessimistic. Given the ineptitude of the NY DMV, I suspect they’re mailed to prevent the employees from selling photo ID’s wholesale.

When I changed my license classification they took my old class D and gave me the paper "ID". Only took three days for the new license to show up in the mail.

Anonymous Coward says:

Facial recognition. You know, that’s an important thing. Remember how children react to their parents, and not other people? That’s facial recognition. We all do it, from birth, we never stop. Imprinting, even wolves do it. We dedicate a big part of our brain and our energy to develop the ability to distinguish certain faces. From the moment of birth, unceasingly, until the end.

Here’s what’s actually scarey about that – Right now, at this moment, I am looking at a picture of Chelsea Manning’s face. She wears eyeliner, has a slightly hooked nose, and bright red lipstick on a powder covered white face. Some of you may have also seen this picture of her in court, big blue eyes, all the signs, like a bird with bright feathers, of a lady looking for love.

I wish I could forget this face, especially when I consider what’s behind it, the black heart, traitorous intention, criminal history, criminal future. I have other pictures here in my file, old pictures, but when I look at the man, now I see the same deception, subterfuge and malicious intent. How can you not see it once you see it?

Can you imagine how horrible it might be to mistake this makeup and eye color and obvious sexual invitation and then find out that the skin, the tone, the muscles, the odor, and the manner all reveal the disturbed and miserable man behind the facade? OMG. I can think of little that would be more disgusting than to be seduced by Chelsea Manning.

What do you think, Mike, agree? You were close enough to smell her/it/him, right? Were you attracted, or disgusted? Tell the truth. You shared a stage together to accept mutually prestigious awards – did you kiss her/it/him? Did you think about it?

Facial Recognition – an important topic for all of us, from birth to death, and everywhere in between. I see Chelsea a lot – I wonder why I don’t see Mike more? Are they dating?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, what I heard was that after Mike and Clelsea met at the award ceremony, they kept in touch, and then they fell in love. Did you hear that too? I remember someone said that they were not dating, but just because one person says that, that does not exonerate him. He’s not exonerated at all, not even close. I paid someone to look into it, followed them, the whole deal, cost me over $10,000. And at the end, he said, well, I don’t have any pictures of them actually fucking, but that doesn’t exonerate him, not at all. It could be true. What do you think?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Another interesting question – how many spies were deployed to the Trump team? Have you been keeping up? Can you imagine going to meet that hot young thing they sent to London to seduce Papadapolous? Sit right there next to her, as she parts her lips, displays her breasts, opens her legs and slides her hand inside your thighs? Would you have defected? Wow, I might have. I’m a little weak in that area. That’s why they use spies who are young sexy ladies that will sleep with anyone! They understand MEN LIKE ME! And Roy Moore. But just like the Honorable Roy Moore, and just like my friend Popadopolous, even though I understand the temptation, i just DON’T GO THERE! Nope. Not me. My wife is good enough for me. Well, she’s 20, that’s a big attraction. Roy’s wife is a little older, but he is a GOOD MAN, doesn’t fall for all this SPY stuff. In fact, I think pretty much everybody that supports Trump are good, and immune to LYING SPIES who want to SEDUCE YOU. Nope, not us, me or Roy. ‘Cause you never know – could be Chelsea Manning (the name’s a giveaway, right? MAN). Could be a man. Nope, not for me. I’ll go back to my fresh young beautiful 20 year old bride, thank you very much. And God Bless Roy Moore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You do realize that I just fed you a paranoid delusion and you immediately thought of POTUS, right? I said something ridiculous, that has nothing to do with our criminal justice system, and I said it specifically to highlight how ridiculous Mueller was in his report, and you fell for it, right? You get that,right? Only a tyrant unfamiliar with American Law, American History, the American Constitution and Great American Hero’s would assume that someone NEEDS to be exonerated, right? PRESUMED INNOCENT, remember that? You forgot, Mueller forgot it, wait – are you Mueller? Wow, that explains a LOT, if you’re Mueller, you sound like him a LOT. Can you PROVE you are NOT MUELLER?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Who was Mifsud working for, and what was going on in the spring and summery of 2016? Huh? This was entrapment, the same way I entrapped Jihad Stephen. Will Bill Barr go to jail? HAHAHA! Jim Jordan says no – the treatment they are giving Barr is because he said three weeks ago in front of the finance committee that spying did occur! And a failure of leadership in the upper echelon of the FBI with POLITICAL SURVEILLANCE! Am I projecting this? I DON’T THINK SO! Think about the Ukraine Embassy, and what they acknowledged for the FIRST TIME! THE DNC! THE DNC! I AM NOT THE DNC, AND YOU ARE! BOOM(ERANG)ING! (Did you see Brannon – why does he always wear black, anyway?)

Wyrm (profile) says:


This is not victim-blaming.
This is pointing out that victims can and do file frivolous lawsuits too.

Their lawyers should tell them how much of a waste of time and resource this is for both the client and the system in general. They might feel like they have the right to sue "someone" for what happened to them, but they completely misunderstand who they should sue or whether suing was a good idea at all. The lawyer’s role should be help them get past the emotional viewpoint and understand that you can’t just blame anyone.

Or that would be the case if there was no incentive for the lawyer to let the lawsuit get filed. They get paid whatever the outcome after all.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s a problem. Isn’t there a way to censure lawyers who effectively commit fraud by filing lawsuits they’ve got no chance of winning?

I feel sorry for Bah but if he learns anything from this, I hope it’s to report the loss of any official paperwork with his name on going forward. I’m sorry for his troubles but it’s the thief who is to blame here, not Apple — or the cops. They were all just doing their jobs with the information available to them at the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

This person is an idiot! Trying to sue Apple over this is beyond laughable. Apple was the victim. They were ripped off. They gave the police the Info they had on this person, the ID they had which was was shown ended up being fake and video of the person. Something YOU may do if someone comes to your house, knocks on your door and shows you some ID and trys selling you on some B.S. when they’re really checking out your house, and then come back later to rob you. You give the Police the Video you have on the person you caught on your security camera and the name you got earlier from the person. Later on the Police arrest, the wrong person as they didn’t do a good enough job and that person sues YOU.

I mean really, how does that work? You didn’t tell the police to arrest the wrong guy at 4AM in the morning. The police screwed up. It was poor police work. Like ID picture not matching up to the person on the video.

Apple is not using Facial Recognition software on security cameras. Just because they have FaceID on their phones, I don’t see how you can just jump to that conclusion on security cameras.

1 billion? HAHAHAHAHA. I’m thinking about the Austin Powers movies and Dr. Evil and how he wants 1 Million, and it’s not enough for the time he’s living in now and raises it to 1 BILLION DOLLARS. There’s no case here. He can try going after the police as it was THEM that screwed up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Serious question – when Apple passed on the faulty information, who (if anyone) dropped the note that the name was based on a no-photo ID card? Where in the chain did it go from "We got this no-photo ID card from the accused" to "We know the accused has the name Bah"? Similarly, before raiding Bah at 4am, did the cops bother to check the DMV photo of the given name against the footage of their target?

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