Google Photos’ ‘racist’ error highlights facial recognition’s limits

google apologizes for misidentifying a black couple as gorillas in photos app racist error
Credit: Jacky Alcine/Twitter, BBC
As impressive as facial recognition software is, it isn’t perfect, and sometimes algorithm errors can lead to unintended consequences. Google discovered this in what’s possibly one of the worst scenarios a company could face: Its new Photos app incorrectly labeled a black couple as “gorillas.”

Google Photos has the ability to automatically tag images, using photo comparisons, big data, and other methods the intelligence software learns over time. But its accuracy is not always successful. While mistakes are unintentional, Google is facing backlash for this particular error’s racist connotations, the BBC reports.

According to Jacky Alcine, the man in the photo who brought it to Google’s attention, Photos didn’t misclassify just one photo but an entire collection that contained him and his friend. Alcine, a software developer, made the issue public by posting the results on Twitter.

Google responded immediately with an apology, telling the BBC that it’s “appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened.” While the company wasn’t being malicious, it says the error is “100 percent not OK.”

Google executive Yonatan Zunger says, “[It was] high on my list of bugs you ‘never’ want to see happen,” and that the company is “working on longer-term fixes around both linguistics – words to be careful about in photos of people – and image recognition itself – e.g., better recognition of dark-skinned faces.”

It’s not the first time – and won’t be the last – that Google Photos mistakenly tagged photos. In May, iTech Post noted that dogs were being classified as horses. In our photos, we noticed the software tagged an image of a camera and an airplane under “cars.” But part of Photos’ machine learning is to understand its mistakes, studying how users remove or reclassify tags. Over time, Google Photos’ accuracy should improve.

“There is still clearly a lot of work to do with automatic image labelling, and we’re looking at how we can prevent these types of mistakes from happening in the future,” Google tells the BBC.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

We toured the Google Hardware Store pop-up in New York: Here’s what it’s like

To show off its slew of new products, Google is opening up pop-up shops in New York and Chicago starting October 18. You'll be able to buy products -- such as the Pixel 3 or the Google Home Hub -- at the Google Hardware Store.
Mobile

Here’s how Google’s Call Screening A.I. works, and how to use it

Google's Pixel 3 and 3 XL smartphones can take excellent photos, but there are a few artificial intelligence features that steal the show. Call Screening uses Google Assistant to answer the phone for spam calls.
Photography

Remove photo bombs, other unwanted objects with Photoshop’s new Content-Aware Fill

Photoshop's newest A.I-powered tool helps remove objects or fill in gaps for a distraction-free photo in the new Adobe Photoshop CC 2019. Here's how to remove an object in Photoshop using the new Content-Aware Fill.
Mobile

Google Pixel 3 vs. Apple iPhone XS: Does Google’s A.I. take down Apple?

The Google Pixel 3 is here, boasting top-tier specs like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM, and some of the world's best artificial intelligence features on a phone. But can it take out the Apple iPhone XS?
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.
Product Review

The design still says retro, but Fujifilm's X-T3 is all about the future

If the X-T2 brought Fujifilm into the modern era, the X-T3 is focused on the future. With a new sensor and processor, completely revamped autofocus, and vastly upgraded video, it's the new APS-C camera to beat.
News

Kodak’s ‘Digitizing Box’ service saves precious memories stuck on old media

If you've been meaning to convert your old family photos, videotapes, films, and audio recordings to digital but never seem to get around to it, then a new service from Kodak may prompt you to add it to your "to-do" list again.
Photography

You can finally throw away your PC; Photoshop is coming to the iPad

A full version of Photoshop is coming to the iPad -- and soon, other tablets, as well. Adobe also launched several new features for Photoshop and Lightroom, including a new Content-Aware Fill tool.
Photography

Adobe’s Premiere Rush is a video-editing app designed for social media projects

At Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe unveiled updates across the board for all of its Creative Cloud apps, from the release of Premiere Rush CC, a social-focused video editor, to Project Gemini, a digital drawing and painting tool.
Photography

Sony crammed 28x zoom, 4K into a $450 camera that weighs as much as a smartphone

The Sony HX99 is a tiny compact camera that mixes 4K and fast burst speeds with a 28x optical zoom. The travel zoom camera upgrades the processor over the earlier model for better video and super-long-burst captures.
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.
Photography

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is the cloud-based video editing app you've been waiting for

On stage at Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe announced its cloud-centric, social video-editing application, Adobe Premiere Rush CC. We took some time to put it through its paces to see what it offers, how it works, and what's missing.
Photography

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.