Tech Fail: Google Photo App Identified Blacks as Gorillas


Tech Fail: Google Photo App Identified Blacks as Gorillas

Google apologized after an African-American user of its Photos app complained that his images were identified as gorillas.

Published July 1, 2015

Jacky Alciné was offended when he found the Google Photos app labeled images he took with his Black friend as "gorillas." After he complained on Twitter and exposed the technical fail, Google apologized.

"We're appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened. We are taking immediate action to prevent this type of result from appearing," said Google spokeswoman Katie Watson, according to USA Today.


Google Photos uses image recognition software to automatically identify people and places in photos. But the software has some glitches that need to be fixed. 

Yonatan Zunger, a chief architect of social at Google, responded to the initial complaint Alciné tweeted and kept him in the loop as the Google Photos team looked to resolve the fail. In the end, Zunger told Alciné that Google Photos had mostly fixed the "gorillas" labeling issue, but that it could possibly still show up. 

"We're also working on longer-term fixes around both linguistics (words to be careful about in photos of people and image recognition itself," tweeted Zunger. For example "better recognition of dark-skinned faces," he continued.

In a field that is mostly white and male, this incident adds to the long list of reasons why diversity is needed in the technology and innovations spaces to provide better experiences for app users, who come from all races and backgrounds.

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(Photo: Google via jackyalcine via Twitter)

Written by Natelege Whaley


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