The facial recognition software partnered with the online passport application process of New Zealand has told a man of Mongoloid descent that his photo cannot be uploaded because it has recognised that his eyes are closed in it. Richard Lee already has a New Zealand passport, and it was only when he was trying to renew it that this happened.
"The automated system told the 22-year-old engineering student the photo was invalid because his eyes were closed, even though they were clearly open, according to a copy of the notification posted on social media site Facebook," according to a Reuters report.
"No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated. It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end," Lee was quoted as saying by Reuters after the faux pas on the website belonging to New Zealand's department of internal affairs became public.
A spokesman from the department was later quoted by the news agency as saying: "Up to 20 percent of passport photos submitted online are rejected for various reasons." He added: "The most common error is a subject's eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in this case." The spokesman also said that another photo Lee submitted later was accepted.
Similar past incidents
While facial recognition software have got more advanced, they still have a long long way to go, as was demonstrated by Google Photo, when it classified some black or African individuals as gorillas. Yonatan Zunger, then chief architect of social at Google, was quick to reply: "Thank you for telling us so quickly. Sheesh. High on my list of bugs you *never* want to see happen. Shudder. [sic]"
Just some time earlier, photo-sharing platform Flickr made a similar faux pas, with its auto-tagging feature classifying black people as "ape" or "animal." As if that was not enough, it tagged photos of Nazi concentration camps as "sport" or "jungle gym."