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The Hidden Role of Facial Recognition Tech in Many Arrests


Facial recognition technology is improving, but it is still flawed.

Credit: Getty Images

In April 2018, Bronx public defender Kaitlin Jackson was assigned to represent a man accused of stealing a pair of socks from a TJ Maxx store. The man said he couldn't have stolen the socks because at the time the theft occurred, he was at a hospital about three-quarters of a mile away, where his son was born about an hour later.

Jackson couldn't understand how police had identified and arrested her client months after the theft. She called the Bronx District Attorney's Office, and a prosecutor told her police had identified her client from a security camera photo using facial recognition. A security guard at the store, the only witness to the theft, later told an investigator from her office that police had sent him a mugshot of her client and asked in a text message "Is this the guy?" Jackson calls that tactic "as suggestive as you can get."

Jackson's questions led a judge to order a hearing to determine whether the identification process had been unduly suggestive. Shortly afterward, Jackson says, prosecutors offered her client a deal: Plead guilty to petit larceny in exchange for a sentence of time served. The client, who had been in jail for roughly six months, agreed.

From Wired
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