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Judge allows facial recognition lawsuit against Apple to continue

An Illinois federal judge on Thursday refused to let Apple dodge a class action alleging that it violates state law through its facial recognition software, finding that the proposed class’ allegations that the company illegally collects and stores face scans can proceed, according to Law360 (a subscription is required to read the entire article).

In April 2019 an 18-year-old college student, Ousmane Bah, sued the tech giant for US$1 billion claiming the company’s facial recognition software, Face ID, led to his false arrest and saw him accused of thefts at Apple retail stores in several states.

The plaintiff said the incidents adversely affected his education and reputation and caused him stress and hardship. His complaint accuses Apple of negligence, infliction of emotional distress, slander, libel and fraudulent concealment.

According to the lawsuit, NYPD detective John Reinhold first noticed that Bah “looked nothing like” the suspect in the surveillance video of a Manhattan Apple Store that was robbed. According to the lawsuit, the detective then explained that Apple’s security technology identifies suspects of theft using facial recognition technology.

Apple claims that it does not use facial recognition in its stores. Reinhold told The Verge that this is true, but that the second defendant on the lawsuit, Security Industry Specialists could have used facial recognition to analyze security footage after the fact, and possibly outside of Apple’s facilities.

SIS Security doesn’t explicitly mention Apple as a client on its public website, but the third-party firm seems to have a long working relationship with Apple, and a 2016 employee handbook hosted at its website specifies Apple as a client.

Bah claims that he was at this senior prom in Manhattan during one of the thefts he was charged with, in Boston. He told Bloomberg that he had previously lost a non-photo learner’s permit, which may have been found or stolen by the real thief and used as identification in Apple stores. As a result, Bah claimed, his name may have been mistakenly connected to the thief’s face in Apple’s facial-recognition system, which he said the company uses in its stores to track people suspected of theft.

In other Apple legal news, the tech giant is asking a Texas federal judge to conduct a post-trial hearing by phone after a jury slammed it with a $502.8 million verdict for infringing VirnetX’s network security patents, citing “hardship” the company’s attorneys would face due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the news editor of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.