Man Who Was Wrongfully Arrested By Facial Recognition Speaks Out

by : Hannah Smith on : 14 Jul 2021 11:27
Man Who Was Wrongfully Arrested By Facial Recognition Speaks OutHouse Committee on the Judiciary/YouTube

A Michigan man has urged Congress to pass laws regulating the use of facial recognition technology, after he was wrongly arrested by police using the software.

Robert Williams testified to the House of Representatives subcommittee on crime, terrorism, and homeland security after he was arrested by Detroit Police last year for federal larceny, having been incorrectly matched with a CCTV image by facial recognition technology.


Williams told the subcommittee that after having been identified as a possible match by the software, he was picked out of a lineup by a security guard who was not present during the robbery, and was later detained in a cell for more than thirty hours without food or water.

Robert Williams testifying to House subcommittee (House Committee on the Judiciary/YouTube)House Committee on the Judiciary/YouTube

‘I don’t even live in Detroit and Detroit Police came to my house in Farmington Hills and basically carted me off,’ Williams said, per VICE.

‘I don’t think it’s fair that my picture was used in some type of lineup and I’ve never been in trouble,’ he added.


Williams called on the use of facial recognition technology to identify criminals to be banned, and gave his support to the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium – a new piece of legislation recently introduced by House Democrats that would indefinitely ban law enforcement from using the software.

Speaking in support of the Moratorium during the hearing, per Bloomberg, Democratic representative Sheila Jackson Lee said:

Large scale adoption of this technology would inject further inequity into a system at a time when we should be moving to make the criminal justice system more equitable.

To add untested and unvetted facial recognition technology to our policing would only serve to exacerbate the systemic issues still plaguing our criminal justice system.

Multiple studies have found facial recognition software to be racially biased (PA Images)PA Images

A number of studies have found that facial recognition is disproportionately likely to wrongly identify people of colour, with calls growing in recent years for the technology to be kept out of the hands of law enforcement.

In June last year, IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft all announced they would stop selling their own facial recognition software to police forces, after the companies were accused of facilitating police violence against Black communities.

According to a US Government Accountability Office report released in June, in 2020 there were 20 federal government agencies that employed facial recognition technology, including the FBI and Customs and Border Protection.

In the report, the GAO urged federal law enforcement agencies to better regulate their use of the technology to prevent ‘bias and misuse’.


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Hannah Smith

Hannah Smith is a London-based journalist at UNILAD. After studying History at UCL she worked for print publications on both sides of the pond, including spells at Harper's Magazine and The Times, before graduating with an MA in Newspaper Journalism from City, University of London.

Topics: News, Facial Recognition, no-article-matching, Now, Police, Technology, US Politics


  1. VICE

    Man Wrongfully Arrested By Facial Recognition Tells Congress His Story