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Google sorry for tagging black people as gorillas

Barry Collins
2 Jul 2015
Google Photos
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Search company "appalled" after its Photos app inadvertently tags black people as "gorillas"

Google has apologied after its Photos service mistakenly tagged black people as gorillas. The glitch occured with the automatic tagging feature included in the newly released Photos app.

The failure came to light on Twitter, when Jacky Alcine noticed the service had wrongly applied the tag to photos of his friends. "Google Photos, y'all f***** up. My friend's not a gorilla," he tweeted, before pasting a screenshot of the error.

Google engineers immediately set about correcting the error. Yonatan Zunger, chief architect of social at Google, contacted Mr Alcine and asked for permission to examine the data in his Google Photos account, so the company could prevent such incorrect tags in the future, before issuing a fix shortly afterwards. Zunger later tweeted in reply to Mr Alcine: "Sheesh. High on my list of bugs you *never* want to see happen."

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Google UK has also apologised for the mistake. "We're appalled and genuinely sorry that this happened," a spokeswoman told the BBC. "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 labelling, and we're looking at how we can prevent these types of mistakes from happening in the future."

It's not the first time automatic tagging has caused embarrassment for Google, and its search engine continues to deliver contentious results. An image search for the term "monkey" delivers the following image of Barack Obama high in its results, for example.

The link clicks through to an article deploring racist images of the US President, but stripped of context in search results, it can certainly appear offensive.

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