In this Jan. 3 photo, a man leaves an Apple store in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

In this Jan. 3 photo, a man leaves an Apple store in Beijing. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

Teen sues Apple for $1 billion for false facial recognition

The technology had connected him to a series of thefts he didn’t commit.

By Hamza Shaban and Meagan Flynn / The Washington Post

NEW YORK — An 18-year-old from New York is suing Apple for $1 billion, claiming that a facial recognition system at its stores falsely connected him to a series of thefts.

Ousmane Bah, who was arrested at his home in November, alleges that the warrant included a photo of someone else. The lawsuit also said that a detective with the New York Police Department concluded that the thief caught on the store’s surveillance camera “looked nothing like” Bah.

The lawsuit, citing the detective, says that Apple uses facial recognition technology to identify shoplifters. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Bah said he had an interim learner’s permit, which does not have a photo, that had either been lost or stolen. His attorney told The Washington Post that the permit may have been presented as identification at Apple stores, erroneously matching Bah’s name with the thief’s face in the company’s security system. That means every time the perpetrator walked into an Apple store, his face would register as Bah on Apple’s surveillance.

Bah had been charged in multiple jurisdictions including New York, Massachusetts, Delaware and New Jersey, according to the lawsuit. Charges in three cases against Bah have been dropped, but the New Jersey case is still pending. A spokeswoman for the New York Police Department said the case there had been sealed, and she could not provide information about it.

According to the lawsuit, Bah “was forced to respond to multiple false allegations which led to severe stress and hardship in his life, and also significant damage to his positive reputation that he had put so much effort into upholding.”

The lawsuit seeks damages of $1 billion, a declaration that Apple “wrongfully and baselessly damaged” Bah’s reputation, and a court order compelling Apple to “address the mistake in the stored data” that ties Bah’s identifying information to the company’s facial recognition tech.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

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