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Texas Detainee Raped in Jail Sues Macy’s for False Facial-ID Match That Led to Arrest

A lawsuit filed on January 18, 2024, accuses retail giant Macy’s of employing faulty facial recognition technology that falsely identified a Texas man as an armed robbery suspect, landing him in a Houston jail where he was raped by fellow detainees. Harvey Murphy, Jr., 61, was released from the Harris County Jail shortly after the October 2022 assault, when prosecutors verified his alibi that he had not even been in Texas the previous January when the robbery occurred.

In fact, Murphy was in Sacramento when someone held up both a Houston Macy’s department store and a nearby Sunglass Hut in January 2022. Anthony Pfleger, head of loss prevention for Sunglass Hut parent Essilor Luxottica, reviewed surveillance footage of the robbery suspect from cameras installed by property owner Kimco, using Macy’s facial recognition software to match the face to Murphy. A salesclerk held at gunpoint during the crime also identified him as the robber when shown a photo by police.

When Murphy returned from California to Texas later that year, he tried to renew his driver’s license and was arrested on the outstanding warrant. Denied bond, he spent 10 days in jail before three unnamed detainees sexually assaulted him in a bathroom.

“It scares me to think we’re heading in a direction where one of my kids can be incarcerated for doing nothing wrong, based on this technology,” said Murphy’s attorney, Daniel Dutko of Rusty Hardin & Assoc. LLP in Houston.

As Murphy’s complaint notes, experts warn that facial recognition technology is easily corrupted by poor lighting and out-of-focus cameras that commonly plague video surveillance. Studies show the technology’s error rate is 9.3%, but that balloons by a factor of 10 when comparing a face on a current video to a photo more than 18 years old—meaning the tech was over 90% likely to make a false match to Murphy’s ancient mugshots, which date to a youthful brush with the law in the 1980s.

Essilorluxottica is also a named defendant in the case, along with Pfleger and other Sunglass Hut employees, as well as Kimco. See: Murphy v. Essilorluxottica, Tex. Jud. Dist. 125 (Harris Cty.), Case No. 2024-03265.


Additional source: Washington Post

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