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Teen sues Apple for $1 BILLION after facial scanning leads to false arrest

People shop in an Apple retail store in Grand Central Terminal, January 29, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

An 18-year old is taking on Apple, claiming that the tech giant’s facial recognition technology wrongly identified him as a thief stealing from Apple stores.

New York-based college student Ousmane Bah was arrested in November last year and charged for stealing from an Apple store, according to a US $1 billion lawsuit (AU $1.42 billion) filed to the Manhattan federal court on Monday.

But Bah claims that the actual thief had used a stolen ID to pretend to be him when they were caught stealing US $1,200 (AU $1,700) worth of Apple products in Boston in May, CNET reports.

While the ID included Bah’s name, address, and other personal information, there was no photo, the lawsuit says.

According to the lawsuit, Apple programmed Bah’s name to connect with the thief’s face in its facial recognition system.

The ID used by the thief may have been Bah’s old learner’s permit that does not include a photo, the 18-year-old believes.

The robber then stole from a number of Apple stores in New Jersey, Delaware and Manhattan, which Bah was blamed for. He claims he only learnt of the mix-up when he received a summons in the mail in June to appear in Boston municipal court.

But he claims that the photo in the arrest warrant didn’t look like him, and that the theft in Boston he had been charged with occurred while he was attending his prom in Manhattan.

When Bah was arrested, a New York Police Department detective working on the case who had viewed the Manhattan store security footage said the suspect “looked nothing” like Bah, according to the lawsuit.

Charges against him have been dropped in all states bar New Jersey, where the case is still pending.

In the lawsuit, Apple is being accused of negligence, emotional distress, defamation, slander, libel and fraudulent concealment.

Apple’s facial recognition software was described in the lawsuit as “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 analysed”.

As a result of facing multiple false allegations, Bah has suffered from “severe stress and hardship” in his first year of college, the lawsuit said.

"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.

“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."

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