Sunday, February 25, 2024

This grandfather was mistakenly identified as a Sunglass Hut robber by facial recognition software. He’s suing after he was sexually assaulted in jail.

A 61-year-old grandfather is suing Sunglass Hut’s parent company after the store’s facial recognition technology mistakenly identified him as a thief. Harvey Eugene Murphy Jr. was then held in jail, where he claims he was sexually assaulted, according to the lawsuit.

The January 2022 robbery took place at a Sunglass Hut store in Houston, Texas, when two gun-wielding robbers stole thousands of dollars in cash and merchandise.

Houston police identified Murphy as a suspect – even though he was living in California at the time.

When Murphy returned to Texas to renew his driver’s license, he was arrested. He was held in prison, where he claims he was sexually assaulted by three men in a toilet. He says he suffered lifelong injuries.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office in Texas determined that Murphy was not involved in the robbery — but the damage was already done while he was in prison, his attorneys said in a news release.

Facial recognition is often used to match faces in surveillance footage – such as video of a store robbery – with images in a database. The system often uses reservation photos, but the software can also search for driving license photoswhich means that if you have a license, your photo may have been searched even if you have never committed a crime.

Murphy has a criminal record dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, which means he likely has a booking photo. His attorneys said those offenses were not violent and that he had built a new life over the past 30 years, according to the news release.

He is now suing Sunglass Hut parent company EssilorLuxottica and company partner Macy’s. The head of EssilorLuxottica’s loss prevention team said they worked alongside Macy’s and identified Murphy as the suspect using facial recognition software.

Murphy’s lawyers say facial recognition is error-prone and that poor-quality cameras were used, increasing the likelihood of an error in identifying a suspect.

A Sunglass Hut employee identified Murphy as the suspect in a police photo op — but Murphy’s lawyers say the loss prevention team met with her before that, which could taint the investigation.

“Mr. Murphy’s story is troubling to every citizen of this country,” said Daniel Dutko, one of the attorneys representing Murphy. “Any person could be wrongly charged with a crime based on error-prone facial recognition software, just like she was.”

In facial recognition used by law enforcement agencies like the FBI, complex mathematical algorithms are used to compare a photo of a suspect’s face to potentially millions of others in a database. But it has its faults.

In 2023, the Federal Trade Commission banned Rite Aid from using the technology after the company’s faulty system led employees to falsely accuse shoppers of theft. In one incident, an 11-year-old girl was stopped and searched by a Rite Aid employee based on a false match.

The FTC said this faulty technology often misidentifies Black, Asian, Latino and female consumers.

In 2023, a woman sued Detroit police after authorities wrongly identified her as a carjacking suspect using facial recognition technology. Porcha Woodruff, who was eight months pregnant at the time of her wrongful arrest, was jailed after being wrongly identified during a police identification. Detroit Police Chief James White said Woodruff’s photo should not be used in the lineup to begin with.

CBS News has reached out to EssilorLuxottica for comment and is awaiting a response. Macy’s declined to comment. Murphy’s lawyers had no additional comment.

Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from



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