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Google Is Sorry That Its New App Is Racist

Published Jul 1st, 2015 12:14PM EDT
Google Photos Automatic Tagging Black People Gorillas
Image: Google

Google Photos is one of the most interesting new products Google unveiled at its developers conference last month. The app comes with unlimited photo storage and a variety of smart features to help you categorize, share and find pictures quickly. However, one developer discovered a huge problem in the app’s tagging feature, and it’s one Google has already apologized for, but hasn’t yet completely fixed.

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The bug lies with Photos’ automatic tagging feature, computer programmer Jacky Alcine revealed on Twitter (image below). Apparently, Google Photos automatically tagged him and his female friends as “gorillas.”

“What kind of sample image data you collected that would result in this son?” he asked.

Google’s chief social architect Yonatan Zunger responded within an hour and a half.

“Holy f**k. G+ CA here. No, this is not how you determine someone’s target market. This is 100 percent not okay,” he said.

Zunger then asked for Alcine’s permission to further investigate the images, and later tweeted that the gorilla label had been removed from the app’s database, and that there’s still a lot of work to be done with the app. He even said that due to factors including skin tones and lighting, Google Photos used to label people of all races as dogs in the past.

Google recently explained how the artificial intelligence behind Google Photos learns, and you can check it out at this link.

“We’re appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened,” Google told Ars Technica in a statement. “We are taking immediate action to prevent this type of result from appearing. There is still clearly a lot of work to do with automatic image labeling, and we’re looking at how we can prevent these types of mistakes from happening in the future.”

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.