Sunglasses Hut Incident Shows Pitfalls Of Facial Recognition Technology

Harvey Murphy is a 61-year-old man who has recently sued Macy’s and EssilorLuxottica, who is Sunglass Hut’s parent company. This is due to a wrongful arrest made from using a facial recognition system. The technology, using low-quality cameras, incorrectly identified Murphy as the suspect behind an armed robbery at a Sunglass Hut in Houston, evn though he was in California at the time of the incident.


How Murphy Was Wrongfully Identified


Murphy’s ordeal began when an EssilorLuxottica employee collaborated with Macy’s, using facial recognition software. The employee claimed to have identified Murphy as the robber, prompting them to contact the police and halt the investigation. The system even pointed to Murphy as a suspect in two other robberies.


Wrongful Arrest and Detainment


Upon Murphy’s return to Texas, he was promptly arrested based on the flawed facial recognition evidence. To make matters worse, he had to spend 10 days in jail, even though he presented a confirmed alibi. He faced severe assault during that period. Only after his defense attorney and the prosecutor confirmed his alibi did the charges get dropped. The lawsuit claims permanent injuries and the damages amount to £7,8 million.


Disadvantages of Facial Recognition Technology



This incident highlights the inherent flaws of facial recognition technology. Previous cases can be found involving wrongful arrests. The technology has also shown to have a racial bias and high error rates, especially when using low-quality images, posing a great risk of identifying incorrectly.


Privacy Concerns and Data Security

Facial recognition technology raises serious privacy concerns, as demonstrated by Murphy’s case. The reliance on large amounts of personal data stored in servers makes it susceptible to data breaches and misuse. Additionally, private companies using this technology may track individuals without their knowledge, leading to potential privacy infringements.

Lack of Regulation and Accountability

The absence of comprehensive regulations governing facial recognition technology contributes to its misuse. Murphy’s case emphasizes the need for clear guidelines on the technology’s deployment, especially by private entities. Without proper oversight, there is a risk of technology being wielded recklessly, as seen in this wrongful arrest.


UK Metropolitan Police’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology


The UK Metropolitan Police use facial recognition technology for various policing purposes, including real-time assistance in locating individuals on watchlists, retrospective analysis after events, and operator-initiated searches. The technology aims to prevent and detect crimes, find wanted criminals, and safeguard vulnerable individuals.


Safeguards, Testing, Controversies and Public Opinion


The Metropolitan Police conducted tests in collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory to assess the equitability of their facial recognition algorithm. The results aimed to ensure that the technology performs fairly across demographics.

Despite concerns about accuracy, the police claim to use the technology with human oversight to prevent wrongful arrests and invasions of privacy.

While facial recognition technology enjoys some public support, controversies persist. Privacy campaigners argue that its use, especially without specific constraints for minor offenses, infringes on individuals’ rights.