An 18-year-old New Yorker filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Apple on Monday, claiming that facial recognition software incorrectly linked him to thefts at several stores.
Ousmane Bah was arrested by New York Police Department officers on Nov. 29 after being accused of thefts at Apple Stores in Manhattan, Boston, New Jersey and Delaware, according to his lawsuit.
The lawsuit says the actual thief was caught stealing $1,200 worth of merchandise — specifically— from the Boston store on May 31, 2018. The person then used a stolen ID that included Bah’s name, address and other personal details, but not his photo, according to the suit. This may actually have been a non-photo learner’s permit that Bah previously lost, the suit says. Bah is African American.
The lawsuit accuses Apple of negligence, emotional distress, defamation, slander, libel and fraudulent concealment.
The alleged use ofin Apple Stores 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 suit says.
Apple said Tuesday that it doesn’t use facial recognition technology in its stores.
Bah’s first indication of a problem was a Boston municipal court summons for June 2018, his suit says, though he hadn’t been to the city before and was attending his senior prom in Manhattan on the day of the theft.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, alleges that Apple connected Bah’s name to the thief’s face in its facial recognition system, which Bah claims is used at Apple Stores to track people suspected of theft. This resulted in Bah being blamed for theft across the four states, the suit says.
A New York Police Department detective who saw security footage from the Manhattan store after Bah’s arrest realized the suspect “looked nothing like” Bah, according to the lawsuit.
All charges have since been dismissed, except in New Jersey, according to the lawsuit.
According to the suit, Bah has been struggling in his first year in college while he has been fighting the charges.
“As a result of being arrested in New York, as well as having to make trips to different states in response to charges filed against him, Mr. Bah’s attendance and grades suffered,” the lawsuit says. “Additionally, he suffered constant anxiety over the possibility of being arrested at any time for crimes he did not commit, and of which he had no knowledge.”
Originally published April 23, 5:04 a.m. PT.
Update, 9:48 a.m.: Adds response from Apple.