Google Is Sorry That Its Photo App Tagged Black People As Gorillas

Illustration for article titled Google Is Sorry That Its Photo App Tagged Black People As Gorillas

Google’s new photo app update (which separates the service from Google+) has at least one major problem: The service’s auto-tagging feature identifies some black people as gorillas. A Google developer’s response to the situation: “Holy Fuck.”

News of the app’s problematic feature was blasted on Twitter yesterday when computer programmer Jacky Alciné found that photos of him and his friend (both black) were auto-identified as gorillas. What the hell kind of algorithm did this, Alciné wondered aloud to his followers. Google didn’t have a particularly encouraging answer.


Ars Technica reports that the tagging feature doesn’t automatically identify specific people (yet), but puts photos into distinctly labeled categories that might help users look through their pictures based on subject and/or composition. A Google dev was just as shocked as Alciné.

From Ars Technica:

Alciné received an official response from Google’s Chief Social Architect Yonatan Zunger within an hour and a half, and it didn’t mince words: “Holy fuck. G+ CA here. No, this is not how you determine someone’s target market. This is 100 percent not okay.” Zunger requested deeper access to Alciné’s account, then promised a fix that would roll out later that evening.

Well, at least that “holy fuck” seems sincere. The fix, which has already been released, removes the “gorilla” tag from the app while programmers try to figure out exactly where the hell they went so wrong in their creation of the feature.

On Tuesday, Zunger confirmed via Twitter that the “gorilla” label had been removed from the app’s database but that the team still had work to do when the app didn’t recognize a human face—and he flatly confirmed that “lots still [needs] to be done” in terms of facial recognition; he specifically called out “dark-skinned faces” in that assessment. He even said that the app once had a major bug where people of all races were automatically tagged as dogs.


Zunger has apologized to Alciné, which is a start, and a Google spokesperson told Ars Technica that the company is “genuinely appalled” and “sorry” that something like this had happened.

Contact the author at

Image via Shutterstock

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


“What about me?”