July 8, 2020
Last January, Detroit resident Robert Williams was taken into police custody after a surveillance video captured “a heavyset man, dressed in black and wearing a red St. Louis Cardinals cap,” shoplifting watches. The image had been uploaded to a facial recognition database, which mapped the man’s face and searched for similar ones in a collection of 49 million photos. Williams was held for 30 hours, and only released after posting $1,000 bond.
The man on the video wasn’t Williams.
And he will almost certainly not be the last to be wrongfully accused based on facial recognition software. According to this article published earlier this week at TheRegister.com, Detroit Police have acknowledged that the software is wrong 96% of the time.
I have a suggestion: the police should use the software. And if it comes up with a match, they should immediately release the suspect. They’ll only be wrong four percent of the time.