Automatic soap dispenser 'racism'

Occurred: August 2017

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In August 2017, Facebook employee Chukwuemeka Afigbo shot a short video of an automatic soap dispenser that appeared to dish out soap to a white person’s hand, but not a black person’s.

As IFLScience pointed out, the dispenser most likely used a light sensor to detect when a hand is beneath it. Its inability to sense darker skin raised questions about racism in technology, and about the lack of diversity in the industry that creates these kinds of products. 

Two years earlier, an African-American attending the Dragon Con sci-fi and fantasy convention visited a bathroom in the Marriott hotel in Atlanta and discovered the soap dispenser wouldn't sense his hands, even though it worked fine for his white friend. 

Developer: Shenzhen Yuekun Technology
Country: USA
Sector: Travel/hospitality
Purpose: Dispense soap
Technology: Infrared; Light sensor
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: January 2023