Black teen kicked out of skating rink after facial recognition mis-ID'ed her


One study's average rate of error for misidentifying darker-skinned women compared to lighter-skinned men.

Harvard / Science in the News


Stop us if you heard this before: a facial recognition system misidentified a Black teen at a skating rink near Detroit, resulting in the business barring her from entry. This beckons two questions right off the bat:

  1. What kind of skating rink feels the need to install AI facial recognition surveillance systems on its property?
  2. What the absolute fuck?

According to an initial report from local news outlet, Fox 2 Detroit, Lamya Robinson arrived at the Riverside Arena skating rink last weekend, but was soon turned away after submitting to facial scan upon entry. Riverside Arena managers claimed Ms. Robinson was already banned from the establishment after she got into a fight with someone last March... an impossibility on Robinson’s part (barring some clever, Loki-esque time variation) seeing as how it was her first visit there, ever.

“I was like, that is not me. Who is that?" Robinson recounted to Fox 2 upon seeing the facial recognition’s image identification.

Oh yes, it gets worse — Despite her denial (and, we assume, her friends’ vouching for that fact) Riverside Arena employees forced her to wait in the parking lot alone until a relative was able to come get her. “You all put my daughter out of the establishment by herself, not knowing what could have happened,” Robinson’s father added.

“The software had her daughter at a 97 percent match. This is what we looked at, not the thumbnail photos Ms. Robinson took a picture of, if there was a mistake, we apologize for that,” a Riverside Arena responded, to which we say: it doesn’t matter if the software came up with a “100% match” if it can be demonstrably proven a person isn’t who the program alleges they are.

Even more evidence to ban public facial recognition — Robinson’s unfortunate, infuriating story is only the latest in a long line of facial recognition tech’s misuse, abuse, and inaccuracy. If there’s any good to come from situations like this, it’s that it only further underscores the need for intensive regulation, if not outright banning, of facial recognition software usage.

Recently, Fight for the Future announced its Ban Facial Recognition in Stores campaign, which aims to put pressure on private businesses like Macy’s and Apple Stores to cease their reliance on shoddy, racist algorithms. “Retailers justify using facial recognition to protect and predict their profits, but this technology puts workers in danger, exacerbates bias, and amasses personal data,” explains Fight for the Future. “Retailers across the country that are exploring this invasive technology should know that prioritizing profit over privacy is wrong.”