Man Alleges Macy’s, Sunglass Hut’s False Facial Recognition Led To His Jailing And Rape

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

John Oyewale Contributor
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A Texas man is alleging that Macy’s and Sunglass Hut’s facial recognition softwares misidentified him as an armed robber, leading to his imprisonment and gang-rape, court documents showed.

Harvey Eugene Murphy Jr., 61, was “positively (but falsely) identified” by an “error-ridden facial-recognition software” as “a violent criminal” who allegedly robbed a Sunglass Hut at gunpoint in Houston, Texas, in January 2022, according to court documents. The suspect allegedly made away with thousands of dollars and had also allegedly robbed a Macy’s.

“Poor low-quality cameras” recorded the surveillance footage of the alleged robbery, according to the documents.

Murphy, who says he was in Sacramento, California, at the time of the robberies, was arrested and jailed in “an overcrowded maximum-security jail with violent criminals,” according to the documents. While in jail, he was “beaten, gang-raped, and left with permanent and awful lifelong injuries,” before being released hours later, the lawsuit alleged.

The defendants include New York-based Macy’s Inc. and the Italian-French multinational EssilorLuxottica Group, the parent company of Sunglass Hut. The manager and a sales associate of the Sunglass Hut location and the head of EssilorLuxottica’s loss prevention were also named as defendants, according to the documents. (RELATED: Woman Sues City For Arresting Her While Pregnant Based On False Facial Recognition)

“Any one of us could be improperly charged with a crime and jailed based solely on error-prone facial recognition software. The companies that use this kind of software know it has a high rate of false positives, but they still use it to positively identify alleged criminals,” the lawsuit read in part.

Murphy was last booked for nonviolent offenses in the 1980s and 1990s but has not broken the law in the past 30 years, Murphy’s attorneys said, The Houston Chronicle reported. Murphy reportedly is seeking $10 million.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) banned RiteAid from using facial recognition technology for five years in December 2023 in a settlement of charges, according to an FTC press release. The FTC had charged RiteAid with using technology that was “more likely to generate false positives in stores located in plurality-Black and Asian communities than in plurality-White communities,” the press release said.