Black Man Jailed After An Algorithm Falsely Accuses Him Of Stealing Designer Handbags

Source: LV4260 / Getty

A Georgia Black man was arrested and jailed in November after a facial recognition algorithm falsely accused him of committing crimes three states and seven hours away from where he lived. 

According to Gizmodo, Randall Reid was headed to a belated Thanksgiving dinner with his mother when he was arrested in Georgia for a crime he allegedly committed in a New Orleans suburb. 

Police used a facial recognition algorithm to identify a suspect who stole $10,000 worth of Chanel and Louis Vuitton handbags. The recognition software identified Reid as the suspect. He was arrested and spent almost a week in jail. 

But, Randall Reid says he has never even been to Louisiana and that the algorithm completely got it wrong. 

“They told me I had a warrant out of Jefferson Parish. I said, “What is Jefferson Parish?”‘ said Reid. “I have never been to Louisiana a day in my life. Then they told me it was for theft. So not only have I not been to Louisiana, I also don’t steal.”

According to reports, Reid was 40 pounds lighter than the suspect authorities had on surveillance tape.

“I think they realized they went out on a limb making an arrest based on a face,” Reid’s lawyer, Tommy Calogero told NOLA.

Although the use of facial recognition technology is gaining steam among law enforcement, studies have shown that the algorithms fuel racial profiling. Black Americans are more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts, which means they are overrepresented in mugshot data. The same data is used by facial recognition algorithms. In turn, the algorithm creates the same biases as the White developers who created it. 

In fact, a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that these types of facial recognition algorithms work best at recognizing middle-aged white men. The error rates were highest for Black people, especially Black women.

According to NYT, the algorithm police used to arrest Reid, has led to at least three wrongful arrests. 

“Unfortunately, Randall Reid will not be the last person falsely arrested due to police use of facial recognition technology,” said Evan Selinger of Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told Gizmodo.

“When there’s a political need to be seen as committed to decisive action, high-tech options—even deeply flawed and highly controversial ones—can have good short-term optics.”


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