Facial Recognition Helps New Jersey Cops Jail The Wrong Man For Ten Days [Update]
from the bake-him-away,-toys dept
Update: The original report from NJ.com and the man’s lawyer said that Clearview was involved, however the NY Times has now reported that it was not actually Clearview, but other facial recognition technology. The post has been updated accordingly.
Given facial recognition tech’s predilection for false positives, the only thing surprising about its link to false arrests is how long it took. After years of live trial runs all over the world, tech used by the Detroit Police Department managed to contribute to two bogus arrests in a matter of months.
Despite this, the PD defended its use of the tech, even while admitting it was wrong 96% of the time. The PD said safeguards were in place to prevent false arrests — including forbidding officers from using facial recognition search results as the sole probable cause for arrest warrants. Nonetheless, the false arrests happened. And, in both cases, it appears the safeguards were ignored.
Now, there’s a third victim of facial recognition tech. A New Jersey man was falsely arrested for theft he didn’t commit, thanks to mistaken facial recognition.
[W]hen police last year filed numerous charges against [NiJeer] Parks stemming from a shoplifting incident at a Woodbridge hotel in which the suspect hit a police car before fleeing the scene, the ex-convict who had worked eagerly to repair his life, tried just as hard to clear his name.
“I had no idea what this was about. I’d never been to Woodbridge before, didn’t even know for sure where it was,” Parks told NJ Advance Media last week.
On top of that, Parks didn’t even own a car, much less drive one. He had to ask his cousin to drive him to the Woodbridge Police state after learning there was a warrant for his arrest. After that, he spent 10 days in jail before being freed — a process that ended up costing him his savings and a year of his life just to clear his name.
So, how did the Woodbridge PD decide Parks was the suspect they were seeking? Investigators utilized facial recognition to “identify” the suspect in a January 2019 shoplifting of candy and snacks from a local hotel. (Of course, when cops argue they should be allowed to buy and use faulty surveillance tech, they always claim they’ll only use it to track dangerous criminals, find kidnapping victims, and prevent child sexual abuse. In reality, tech gets used for things like this.)
Investigators fed photos of the suspect to the facial recognition database — including the fake drivers license handed to cops by the suspect when officers confronted him at the scene. (The suspect escaped after a short car chase.) In an assertion no one should willingly associate with facial recognition, investigators called up the Woodbridge police to tell the PD they had a “high profile match.” The “match” decided Parks was the suspect and things got much worse from there.
Parks voluntarily went to the station to “clear his name.” Instead, he was handcuffed and interrogated for hours. Due to his prior convictions and the severity of the alleged crime (the suspect allegedly almost hit an officer while fleeing the scene), prosecutors “offered” six years in jail to Parks with the threat of a 20-year sentence if he took the case to trial.
Fortunately, the judge handling the case refused to consider the questionable facial recognition search results as evidence Parks had committed these crimes. Prosecutors dropped the case shortly after that, but Parks still spent ten days in jail, along with his life savings.
Now, Parks is suing police and prosecutors for attempting to ruin his life using nothing but sketchy technology that has since been banned for use by New Jersey law enforcement agencies. Hopefully, he’ll be able to recover some of what he lost. And it adds to the body of evidence showing facial recognition shouldn’t be trusted.
While the original reporting said that the facial recognition technology used by the police in this case came from Clearview, the NY Times has since said it appears to be existing government databases instead:
Mr. Parks?s mistaken arrest was first reported by NJ Advance Media, which said the facial recognition app Clearview AI had been used in the case, based on a claim in Mr. Parks?s lawsuit. His lawyer, Daniel Sexton, said he had inferred that Clearview AI was used, given media reports about facial recognition in New Jersey, but now believes he was mistaken.
According to the police report, the match in this case was to a license photo, which would reside in a government database, to which Clearview AI does not have access. The law enforcement involved in making the match ? the New York State Intelligence Center, New Jersey?s Regional Operations Intelligence Center and two state investigators ? did not respond to inquiries about which facial recognition system was used.