Apple facial recognition tech prompts student to sue for $1 billion after false arrest

The case revolves around a teenager that was falsely accused of stealing from Apple stores.

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In a case of apparently mistaken identity, a student has decided to sue Apple for $1 billion after the firm's facial recognition technology pointed the finger at him for a number of thefts at Apple stores.

Ousmane Bah, a student living in New York, claims in the new lawsuit that he was falsely arrested and charged for the crimes after being mistakenly identified through Apple technology.

According to court documents viewed by Bloomberg, the 18-year-old was the recipient of an arrest warrant in November -- which included a photo which did not resemble him -- and was charged with thefts including one in Boston which took place at the same time he was at an event in Manhattan. 

In total, $1200 in goods were stolen during this one incident. Other examples of theft linked to the case occurred in New Jersey, Delaware, and Manhattan.

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The teenager had previously lost a learner's permit, which did not contain a photo, but may have been used as ID by the thief. In turn, the criminal's face and Bah's name may have been linked together on Apple's facial recognition database.

An investigator examined surveillance footage obtained by the Manhattan store and concluded that the suspect did not resemble the student at all, the lawsuit says.

All cases against Bah have been dropped except in New Jersey.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday. The claim of $1 billion is related to "severe stress and hardship" caused by the alleged false arrest and charges.

If it is found that Bah was not complicit in any the thefts -- including the outstanding case -- he may be due to some form of compensation for the case of mistaken identity. However, $1 billion may be seen as a stretch, considering the student has not been jailed or appears to have suffered hardship beyond the stress of the court summons.

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This is an unusual case and has a very different core subject than Apple's most recent, publicized court cases.

It has been more common in recent months for the iPad and iPhone maker's court coverage to be related to a years-old fight between the company and US chipmaker Qualcomm, which has resulted in back-and-forth claims of patent abuse, double-dip licensing practices, and an iPhone sales bans across countries including Germany.

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Out of the blue, this month the companies settled their differences, ending all litigation and forging a six-year licensing agreement and a multiyear chipset supply deal,

ZDNet has reached out to Apple and will update if we hear back. 

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