The use of facial recognition surveillance technology has been shown to be inaccurate, racially biased, and a threat to personal privacy. In 2019 the ACLU of Michigan and a coalition of civil rights organizations sent a letter urging the Detroit Police Department to end the use of this dangerous technology, but they refused to do so. A miscarriage of justice of the kind we had warned about then came to light. In January 2020, Detroit police officers arrested Robert Williams on his front lawn, in front of his wife and two young daughters, on charges that he had stolen watches from a Shinola store in Detroit. The arrest was based almost entirely on a facial recognition scan from security footage at the Shinola store, but it was dead wrong: Mr. Williams was not the man in the security footage and was nowhere near the store at the time of the theft. In April 2021 the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the Detroit Police Department, alleging that the officers involved violated Mr. Williams’ rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by arresting him on the basis of this flawed technology. Discovery in the case has exposed systemic and comprehensive failures to use facial recognition technology responsibly and to train detectives in basic investigatory techniques and legal requirements. Meanwhile, in a second lawsuit brought by private counsel on behalf of another man falsely arrested under similar circumstances, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief in April 2023 highlighting the dangers of facial recognition technology and the failures we had uncovered during discovery. In August 2023 we learned of yet another facial-recognition driven false arrest in Detroit following a nearly identical pattern—this time resulting in the arrest of an 8-month pregnant woman in front of her children for a carjacking crime she did not commit. Following publicity over this third incident, Detroit announced that it would make policy changes regarding its use of facial recognition and lineups. In September 2023 we entered into settlement discussions in Mr. Williams’ case. (Williams v. City of Detroit; Oliver v. City of Detroit; ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Phil Mayor, Ramis Wadood and Dan Korobkin, and interns Arshi Baig and Simon Roennecke; National ACLU Attorney Nathan Freed Wessler; co-counsel Michael J. Steinberg of U-M Law School, with student attorneys Eilidh Jenness, Ben Mordechai-Strongin, Jeremy Shur, Deborah Won, Rihan Issa, Camelia Metwally, Seth Mayer, Jonathan Barnett, Lauren Yu, Will Ellis, Mickey Terlep, Brendan Jackson, Keenan McMurray, Julia Kahn, and Lacie Melasi.)

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