ACLU Files Amicus Brief in Lawsuit, Decries Police Misuse of ‘Face Recognition’ Technology 

By Melinda Kukaj

NEWARK, NJ – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and ACLU National filed an amicus brief this week in a lawsuit involving the wrongful arrest of Nijeer Parks, who was incarcerated because of a false match from facial recognition technology, further fueling support for the ACLU-NJ’s call “for a total ban on the use of face recognition technology”.

According to the ACLU of NJ, “Parks v. McCormac could be the first case in the country to generate a decision addressing critical questions about police misuse of face recognition technology.”

In 2019, as written in the New York Times, Parks was wrongfully arrested “following police reliance on a false match by face recognition technology.”

New York Times author Kashmir Hill additionally added, “Nijeer Parks was accused of shoplifting candy and trying to hit a police officer with a car at a Hampton Inn in Woodbridge, N.J. The police had identified him using facial recognition software, even though he was 30 miles away at the time of the incident.”

Though the case was dismissed for lack of evidence, according to the NY Times, “Mr. Parks spent 10 days in jail and paid around $5,000 to defend himself.”

The legitimacy of the arrest is called into question considering, said the ACLU, “Woodbridge Police sent a blurry and shadowed image of the driver license to an out-of-state investigator, who ran the picture through a face recognition system and informed a Woodbridge officer that Mr. Parks was a ‘possible hit.’’

Not only was this done through an out-of-state investigator, according to the ACLU, it was done “without conducting any reliable follow-up investigation…the police applied for an arrest warrant, but concealed from the magistrate judge critical facts about the unreliability of the face recognition search and other defects in the investigation.”

In a statement made by Dillon Reisman, staff attorney for the ACLU-NJ, “Mr. Parks is an innocent New Jersey man whose rights were disregarded when police neglected any proper procedure and misrepresented the accuracy of problematic face recognition tools.”

Parks isn’t the only victim of this maltreatment, the ACLU reports, noting “as evidence has repeatedly shown, face recognition technology is dangerously unreliable and subjects Black and Brown people to higher rates of misidentification, particularly when used in law enforcement settings.”

The severity of this act of racial injustice is very prevalent, the ACLU argued, adding that “nearly every known case of a wrongful arrest due to police reliance on incorrect face recognition results has involved the arrest of a Black person.”

Nathan Freed Wessler, deputy director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project stated that “the court should take this important opportunity to put police on clear notice that misuse of this technology poses a hazard to members of our communities, and that police can be held accountable for violating people’s rights.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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