A 61-year-old grandfather is suing Macy’s and Sunglass Hut over the stores’ alleged use of facial recognition technology led to his wrongful arrest, imprisonment, and sexual assault in jail.
Harvey Eugene Murphy Jr. was wrongly accused and arrested on charges of robbing thousands of dollars of cash and merchandise from a Sunglass Hut store in Houston, Texas in January 2022 — based on facial recognition software.
Although he was native to Texas, Murphy was actually living in California at the time of the armed robbery at this Sunglass Hut store.
Nonetheless, in October 2023, when Murphy returned to Texas from California to renew his driver’s license, he was approached by a police officer who notified him there was a warrant out for his arrest for an aggravated robbery.
Murphy was arrested and taken to the local county jail, where he was held for 10 days before being transferred to and processed in Harris County jail.
After a few days at Harris County Jail, Murphy’s alibi was confirmed by both his court-appointed defense attorney and the prosecutor, and the charges against him were ultimately dropped.
But before he could be released, Murphy was brutally beaten and gang-raped by three men in a jail bathroom, leaving him with lifelong injuries. After the alleged attack, he had to remain in the same cell as his rapists until he was released.
Murphy has filed a lawsuit against Sunglass Hut’s parent company EssilorLuxottica and retailer Macy’s for his wrongful arrest and sexual assault.
“The attack left him with permanent injuries that he has to live with every day of his life,” the lawsuit reads.
“All of this happened to Murphy because the Defendants relied on facial recognition technology that is known to be error-prone and faulty.”
According to Murphy’s lawsuit, an employee of EssilorLuxottica worked with its retail partner Macy’s and used facial recognition software to identify him as the robber.
The image that was put through the facial recognition system allegedly came from low-quality cameras. The EssilorLuxottica employee also said the system had pointed to Murphy as committing two other robberies.
A Flawed Technology
According to The Guardian, Murphy’s case would be the seventh known case of a wrongful arrest due to facial recognition in the U.S., further highlighting the flaws of a technology already widely adopted by police departments and retailers in the country.
However, in all of the publicly known cases of wrongful arrests due to facial recognition up until now, the victims have been Black. Murphy’s lawsuit would be the first known case of the failure of the technology leading to the wrongful arrest of a white man.
“Mr. Murphy’s story is troubling for every citizen in this country,” said attorney Daniel Dutko of Rusty Hardin & Associates, who is representing him, says in a statement.
“Any person could be improperly charged with a crime based on error-prone facial recognition software just as he was.”
In December, Rite Aid was banned from using facial recognition technology for five years — after its “reckless” use misidentified Black, Latino, and Asian customers as people previously identified as “likely to engage” in shoplifting.
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.