UK passport application system fails to recognise man's black skin

Occurred: April 2021

The UK Home Office was accused of racism after a Black man was prevented from registering for a UK passport on its website because the software was unable to recognise his skin colour from the grey wall behind him.

Model and racial justice activist Joris Lechêne took to TikTok to complain that his photo 'was rejected because the artificial intelligence software wasn’t designed with people of my phenotype in mind.'

The UK's Passport Office had earlier told the New Scientist that an update to the system had been available for more than a year but had not yet been rolled out.

Furthermore, Home Office documents released under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request show it knew its passport photo system failed to work well for some ethnic minority people but decided to use it anyway. 

System 🤖

Operator: UK Home Office

Country: UK

Sector: Govt - immigration

Purpose: Check photograph

Technology: Facial detection; Facial analysis; Computer vision
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race, ethnicity

Transparency: Governance; Complaints/appeals

News, commentary, analysis 🗞️

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: February 2023