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Google Photos app gets slammed for racist 'gorillas' tag

Google issued an apology after its automatic tagging system in the Photos app tagged a couple of African people as “Gorillas”.

According to a report by BBC (opens in new tab), the company is “appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened”. The issue was first spotted by Twitter user @jackyalcine, who posted a screenshot of the Google tag, where a couple of friends were tagged as “Gorillas”.

Google’s Yonatan Zunger, the company’s Chief Architect of Social, was first to respond, saying a fix is on the way.

“Sheesh. High on my list of bugs you *never* want to see happen,” said Zunger in a tweet. "This is 100% not OK," he added.

Mr Zunger said Google had already taken steps to avoid others experiencing a similar mistake. Zunger added:” We shouldn’t be making piles with that label anymore, and searches are mostly fixed, but they can still turn up. Photos where we failed to recognize that there was a face there at all. We’re working on that issue now. We’re also working on longer-term fixes around both linguistics (words to be careful about in photos of people) and image recognition itself (e.g., better recognition of dark-skinned faces). Lots of work being done, and lots still to be done. But we’re very much on it.”

Google Photos, which was launched in May at the annual I/O conference automatically, tags pictures that a user uploads using the search engine’s own artificial intelligence software.

Users are able to remove badly identified photo classifications within the app, which should help it improve its accuracy over time - a technology known as machine learning.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.