Woman, Eight Months Pregnant, Arrested for Carjacking and Robbery
PPSA has long followed the dysfunctionality of facial recognition technology and police overreliance on it to identify suspects. As we reported in January, three common facial recognition tools failed every time they were confronted with images of 16 pairs of people who resembled one another.
This technology is most apt to make mistakes with people of color and with women. Stories had piled up about Americans – overwhelmingly Black men – who have been mistakenly arrested, including one Georgia man arrested and held for a week for stealing handbags in Louisiana. That innocent man had never set foot in Louisiana.
Now we have the first woman falsely arrested for the crime of resembling a scofflaw. Porcha Woodruff, a 32-year-old Black woman and nursing student in Detroit, was arrested at her doorstep while her children cried. Woodruff, eight months pregnant, was told by police that she was being arrested for a recent carjacking and robbery.
“I was having contractions in the holding cell,” Woodruff told The New York Times’ Kashmir Hill. “My back was sending me sharp pains. I was having spasms.” After being released on bond, Woodruff had to go straight to the hospital.
The obvious danger of this technology is that it tends to misidentify people, a problem exacerbated by distinctly lazy investigations by police. We see a larger danger: as public and private cameras are increasingly networked, and law enforcement agencies can fully track our movements, this technology will mistakenly put some Americans at the scene of a crime.
And if the technology improves and someday works flawlessly? We can be assured of being followed throughout our day – who we meet with, where we worship or engage in political activity or protest – with perfect accuracy.