Google’s recently released Photos app proved to be a convenient addition to the Search Giant’s application portfolio. Google Photos offers automatic photo syncing, Assistant (Auto Awesome) and even a feature for automatic tagging, which can recognize and group food, things, places, animals and more. This automatic tagging feature is definitely among the most popular additions to the new service, but we now have proof that their recognition technology still needs some work.
It must have been the most embarrassing day in a long time for the Google+ team when they discovered their app was tagging people as animals. Things get worse when you consider this can be linked to popular racial slurs. Computer programmer Jacky Alciné shared his tagging results via Twitter when he discovered the Google Photos app was tagging dark-skinned people as gorillas. Something Google responded to rather quickly.
And it’s only photos I have with her it’s doing this with (results truncated b/c personal): pic.twitter.com/h7MTXd3wgo
— diri noir avec banan (@jackyalcine) June 29, 2015
Google’s own Chief Social Architect, Yonathan Zunger, reacted the best way possible. He took blame for the mistake, apologized and started working on a fix right away.
@jackyalcine Holy fuck. G+ CA here. No, this is not how you determine someone’s target market. This is 100% Not OK.
— Yonatan Zunger (@yonatanzunger) June 29, 2015
Soon afterwards, Zunger announced the label for gorillas had been removed from the app’s database. This is at least a temporary solution until they can work out the kinks of recognizing a human face. He goes on to mention there’s definitely “lots to be done” in terms of facial recognition, and that this is not the first time something like this has happened. Apparently there a was previous occurrence in which people (of all races) were being labeled as dogs.
We are definitely glad to see how Google handled this. It just goes to show all the work facial recognition really needs. It’s not simple to scan an image and recognize exactly what everything is. Have you guys encountered any similar issues? I keep looking to see if Google Photos will recognize my hairy face as Sasquatch! No luck there.