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This article was published on April 28, 2021

Black man says racially-biased AI system rejected his passport photo

The system's had the same problem for years

Black man says racially-biased AI system rejected his passport photo
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC. Writer at Neural by TNW — Thomas covers AI in all its iterations. Likes Werner Herzog films and Arsenal FC.

A Black man says a passport photo he submitted was rejected by the British government because the AI software couldn’t recognize his “melanated hotness.”

Joris Lechêne, a model and racial justice activist, said in a TikTok video that his photo met every rule in the application guidelines:

But lo and behold, that photo was rejected because the artificial intelligence software wasn’t designed with people of my phenotype in mind.

Lechêne shared a screenshot of the photo he submitted. It shows him standing in a black t-shirt, mouth closed, against a contrasting grey background.

Nonetheless, the government website rejected the image because his “mouth may be open” and his “image and the background are difficult to tell apart.”

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“[The software] tends to get very confused by hairlines that don’t fall along the face and somehow mistakes it for the background,” said Lechêne. “And it has a habit of thinking that people like me keep our mouths open.”

@joris_explainsAutomation is never diversity-friendly. #LearnOnTikTok#diversity#technology#artificialintelligence#ukcitizen#bias♬ Clock It – Clutch

Lechêne isn’t the first Black person to have their passport photo denied despite following the guidelines. In 2019, the facial recognition software rejected an image of Joshua Bada because it mistook his lips for an open mouth.

“My mouth is closed, I just have big lips,” Bada wrote in the website’s comment box.

A year later, a woman tweeted that her submission had also been denied by the racially-biased algorithm.

Despite knowing about these biases for years, the government is still using the same face analysis algorithm.

In March, the Passport Office told New Scientist that an update to the system had been available for more than a year, but still hadn’t been rolled out.

HT – Daily Dot.

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