Google has apologized after its new Photos app mistakenly labeled a black couple “gorillas”. The software automatically tags uploaded photos, using artificial intelligence to determine the content of each image and generate tags.
But when Jacky Alciné uploaded a few photos of himself and a female friend, that artificial intelligence tagged the pair “gorillas”. Alciné, a software developer based out of New York, took to Twitter to post proof of the Google Photos mishap. “What kind of sample image data you collected that would result in this son?” He asked, perhaps a bit tongue-in-cheek.
Yonatan Zunger, Chief Architect of Social at Google, responded a short while later, calling the error “high on my list of bugs you never want to see happen”.
The two began corresponding as Zunger and his team worked to fix the bug. They ended up removing the “gorilla” tag altogether.
A spokeswoman for Google said the company was “appalled and genuinely sorry”, and that they were taking action to prevent this type of result from appearing. “There is still clearly a lot of work to do with automatic image labeling,” She said. “And we’re looking at how we can prevent these types of mistakes from happening in the future.”
This isn’t the first time Google’s photo recognition software has run into problems. “Lots of work being done, and lots still to be done.” Zunger said. “We used to have a problem with people (of all races) being tagged as dogs, for similar reasons.” The software also infamously tagged dogs as horses, and similar software by photo-sharing website Flickr tagged white and black people as “ape” or “animal”.
It’s clear photo recognition software has a little ways to go, but all the errors are only helping it get closer to viability.
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