UK launched passport checker despite knowing it wouldn’t work with dark skin

Last month, a black man called Joshua Bada hit the headlines after he revealed that his passport photo had been rejected as the online facial recognition technology confused his ‘big lips’ for an open mouth.

Now, a report has revealed that the technology was known to fail for people with dark skin, but that the UK government decided to use it regardless.

The report, by New Scientist, highlights documents released by the Home Office this week, which indicate that it was aware of problems before launching the system.

The documents, which were released following a Freedom of Information request by MedConfidential, wrote: “User research was carried out with a wide range of ethnic groups and did identify that people with very light or very dark skin found it difficult to provide an acceptable passport photograph.

“However; the overall performance was judged sufficient to deploy.”

Mr Bada isn’t the only person to have reported issues with the photo checking service.

Cat Hallam, a black technology officer at Keele University revealed to New Scientist that the system wrongly thought her eyes were closed and her mouth was open.

She said: “What is very disheartening about all of this is they were aware of it.”


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