A Black man spent 10 days in jail after he was misidentified by facial recognition, a new lawsuit says

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A Black man spent 10 days in jail after he was misidentified by facial recognition, a new lawsuit says
London's King's Cross station was revealed to have trialled some facial recognition technology.TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images
  • A Black man is suing a New Jersey police department after he says he was misidentified by facial-recognition software and wrongly spent 10 days in jail.
  • The man, Nijeer Parks, said he had "never been" to the site of a shoplifting incident but was arrested after contacting the police to clear his name.
  • About a year after the incident, New Jersey's attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, ordered the police to stop using facial-recognition technology.

A Black man is suing a New Jersey police department after he says he spent 10 days in jail after being misidentified by facial-recognition technology.

In early 2019, the police were called to a shoplifting incident at a Hampton Inn hotel in Woodbridge, New Jersey. The suspect fled the scene, however, clipping a police car with his vehicle on his way.

Weeks later, a man named Nijeer Parks learned the police had issued a warrant for his arrest. Parks, who doesn't have a driver's license, told NJ Advance Media that he asked his cousin to drive him to the police station to clear his name.

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"I had no idea what this was about," he said. "I'd never been to Woodbridge before, didn't even know for sure where it was." Upon arriving at the station, however, Parks said, he was handcuffed and spent 10 days in jail.

According to NJ Advance Media, Parks fought the charges and ultimately got them dismissed. Parks' attorney says the police and prosecutors pursued his client based only on evidence provided through facial-recognition technology.

"I did have a background, but I'd been home since 2016 and I had been in no trouble," Parks told NJ Advance Media. "The whole thing scared the heck out of me. I've been trying to do the right thing with my life."

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The incident wouldn't be the only case of mistaken identity via facial-recognition technology, which experts have said has a racial bias and can be less accurate with nonwhite skin tones.

Earlier this year, Robert Julian-Borchak Williams was arrested in Detroit, accused of stealing five watches costing $3,800 from a Shinola store in October 2018.

Unbeknownst to Williams at the time, he had been misidentified by facial-recognition tech called DataWorks Plus, which was used by the Michigan State Police. The technology at the center of Parks' case was developed by Clearview AI, according to NJ Advance Media.

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In Parks' lawsuit, his attorney reportedly accused the police of excessive force, false imprisonment, and cruel and unusual punishment and is seeking compensation for physical and emotional suffering.

In January, about a year after the shoplifting incident at the center of Parks' case, New Jersey's attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, said the city had ordered the police to stop using facial-recognition technology.

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