Recent criminal cases of mistaken identity show the weakness of not doing full data matching. This was the case for Robert Williams of Farmington, Michigan. The ability to do a full identity match, using a full name, a full date of birth, and a complete driver’s license number is often the key to preventing fraud against a business or government agency, and can also help make sure that the police to not arrest the wrong person.

“On January 9, 2020, Robert Williams was arrested by Detroit Police Department (“DPD”) officers in his front lawn in Farmington, Michigan, as his wife Melissa looked on and as his daughters wept from the trauma of their father being taken from them. The basis for Mr. Williams’ arrest was an erroneous facial recognition identification—an identification that falsely identified Mr. Williams as the person who stole watches from a Shinola store nearly a year-and-one-half earlier. Mr. Williams’ false arrest disrupted his family life, resulted in his unjustified jailing, and violated of all norms of reasonable policing and investigation.” Following his arrest, [a]t the probable cause conference, a Wayne County prosecutor announced that the charges against Mr. Williams were being dropped ‘without prejudice.’”[1]

When identifiers are stripped from a decision, like an application for a job, an apartment, a volunteer opportunity, or government benefits, getting the right match is difficult, and perhaps impossible. A lack of a match can mean more fraud and could pose a threat to safety. The lack of a match also means the right job, apartment, volunteer opportunity, or government benefit, goes to the wrong person, or not to the intended applicant. Data matching is key.

[1] Letter from the ACLU of Michigan to the Office of the Chief Investigator, Detroit Police Department, , July 23, 2020.