Appen recruitment skin colour assessments

Occurred: May 2021

Can you improve this page?
Share your insights with us

A digital media strategist applying for a job at Australian AI gig working company Appen revealed the company is asking potential employees to describe their skin tone during the online recruitment process.

Applying for a role in the US, Charné Graham was asked to select her complexion, from light to brown to black having ticked a box saying she is 'Black or African American'. Her tweet recounting the experience went viral.

Appen, which employs over one million contractors labeling photographs, text and other data, later apologised, claiming it was only an 'optional question' that is being used 'to ensure diverse datasets' and to 'take the bias out of AI'.

AI gig worker conditions

In July 2023, Appen scored poorly in a report from the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute into the conditions of AI gig workers. Companies that employ AI gig workers uniformly fail to meet a basic threshold of labour rights standards, the report argued.

Operator: Appen
Developer: Appen
Country: USA; Australia
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Determine skin colour
Technology: Computer vision
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race; Employment - diversity
Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: December 2021
Last updated: July 2023