Shalom Life | July 04, 2015

Google Mistakenly Labels Black People as Gorillas

The automatic image labeling service made an offensive mistake

By: Daina Goldfinger

Published: July 2nd, 2015 in Business » World

Technology is a complex phenomenon that can sometimes have a mind of its own.

The past couple years have fostered a technological boom, making different forms of technology more advanced than ever before.

As a tech hub, Israel is a large propagator of innovation, including the development of the famous driving application, Waze, and the privacy-directed search engine, DuckDuckGo. Israel is also known as a prominent partner with Google, with the tech giant’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, continuing to invest in the Jewish homeland.

Technological mistakes can sometimes be made however, and now, Google’s facial recognition application has made a monumental one.

One individual from Brooklyn was reportedly browsing his Google Photos app when he found himself and a friend (both of whom are black) under the label “Gorillas.” The Brooklyn resident, Jacky Alciné, shared the photo on Twitter, captioning it, “Google Photos, y’all f*cked up. My friend’s not a gorilla.”

Yonatan Zunger, Google’s Jewish chief social architect, spotted the photo on social media and quickly responded.

“@jackyalcine Holy f*ck. G+ CS here. No, this is not how you determine someone’s target market. This is 100% Not OK.

In response to Zunger, Alciné tweeted, “Like I understand HOW this happens; the problem is moreso on the WHY. This is how you determine someone’s target market.”

Google subsequently responded by removing the label from the app within 15 hours. A Google spokesperson then released a statement that said, “We’re appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened. 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.”

Hopefully, applications will start to become advanced enough that these types of offenses will no longer occur. While technology is reaching the point of human intelligence, it still has a very long way to go.

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