A Black mother in Detroit, Porcha Woodruff, is suing the city and a Detroit Police Department detective after being falsely arrested while eight months pregnant due to an “unreliable facial recognition match.”
Later, she learned that she had been implicated due to the facial recognition software and a carjacking victim’s identification of her from a lineup that included her mugshot from a 2015 arrest.
The charges against her were dismissed less than a month later. Woodruff is seeking a jury trial to recover damages, highlighting the concerning implications of facial recognition technology in the case.
Woodruff’s lawsuit also alleges racial discrimination by Detroit police through the misuse of facial recognition technology, which has been criticized for inaccuracies and biases, especially against racial minorities.
The Detroit police department has faced allegations of misusing facial recognition technology before, and a 2019 US government study found that facial recognition algorithms were more likely to misidentify racial minorities than White people, raising concerns about its accuracy and potential for discrimination.
The lawsuit calls for the recognition that facial recognition alone cannot serve as probable cause for arrests, as errors can lead to wrongful arrests and physical and emotional harm. Woodruff’s arrest while pregnant has left a lasting impact on her and her children, who witnessed the arrest.
Detroit’s police chief called the allegations very concerning and said they are taking the matter seriously. The lawsuit also alleges malicious prosecution by the detective who submitted the warrant, claiming that the detective’s actions appeared to be driven by malice.
Woodruff’s case is one of many examples highlighting the potential risks of facial recognition technology and its impact on individuals’ lives.
Woodruff gave birth to her son after the arrest and has had to cope with the lasting trauma of the experience, which also affected her children. The lawsuit underscores the need for transparency, oversight, and regulation in the use of facial recognition technology to prevent wrongful arrests and protect individuals’ rights.