Incident 16: Images of Black People Labeled as Gorillas

Description: Google Photos image processing software mistakenly labelled a black couple as "gorillas."


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Alleged: Google developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Black people.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
Report Count
Incident Date
Sean McGregor, Kevin Paeth

CSETv0 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

Google's Google Photo image processing software "mistakenly labelled a black couple as being 'gorillas.'" The error occurred in the software's image processing that attempts to assign themes to groups of similar photos. In this example, the suggested themes were "Graduation, Bikes, Planes, Skyscrapers, Cars, and Gorillas."

Short Description

Google Photos image processing software mistakenly labelled a black couple as "gorillas."



Harm Distribution Basis


Harm Type

Psychological harm, Harm to social or political systems

AI System Description

Google's Google Photo Image Processing

System Developer


Sector of Deployment

Arts, entertainment and recreation

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition

AI Techniques

image classification

AI Applications

image processing, facial recognition, image classification



Named Entities

Google, Google Photos

Technology Purveyor


Beginning Date


Ending Date


Near Miss

Harm caused



Lives Lost


Data Inputs

photographs, images, multi-media content

GMF Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Known AI Goal

Image Tagging

Known AI Technology

Face Detection, Convolutional Neural Network, Keyword Filtering

Known AI Technical Failure


Potential AI Technical Failure

Dataset Imbalance, Context Misidentification

CSETv1 Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Harm Distribution Basis


Sector of Deployment

information and communication

Google Photos app tags black Jacky Alcine and friend as GORILLAS · 2015

Google has been forced to apologise after its image recognition software mislabelled photographs of black people as gorillas.

The internet giant's new Google Photos application uses an auto-tagging feature to help organise images uploaded t…

Google Photos tags black people as 'gorillas', puts pictures in special folder · 2015

Google’s image recognition algorithm is labelling photos of black people as gorillas and putting them into a special album.

The automatic recognition software is intended to spot characteristics of photos and sort them together — so that al…

Google Photos identified black people as 'gorillas,' but racist software isn't new · 2015

Google has come under fire recently for an objectively racist “glitch” found in its new Photos application for iOS and Android that is identifying black people as "gorillas."

In theory, Photos is supposed to act like an intelligent digital …

Google apologises for Photos app's racist blunder · 2015

Mr Alcine tweeted Google about the fact its app had misclassified his photo

Google says it is "appalled" that its new Photos app mistakenly labelled a black couple as being "gorillas".

Its product automatically tags uploaded pictures using …

Google Photos labels black people as 'gorillas' · 2015

Google has removed the 'gorilla' tag from its new Photos app, after a user noticed it had filed a number of photos of him and his black friend in an automatically generated album named 'gorillas'.

The affected user, computer programmer Jack…

Google Photos identified two black people as 'gorillas' · 2015

Google Photos uses sophisticated facial-recognition software to identify not only individuals, but also specific categories of objects and photo types, like food, cats and skylines.

Image recognition programs are far from perfect, however; …

Google says sorry for racist auto-tag in photo app · 2015

Google has apologized after its new photo app labelled two black people as “gorillas”.

The photo service, launched in May, automatically tags uploaded pictures using its own artificial intelligence software.

“Google Photos, y’all fucked up.…

Google Photos Tags Two African-Americans As Gorillas Through Facial Recognition Software · 2015

When Brooklyn-native Jacky Alcine logged onto Google Photos on Sunday evening, he was shocked to find an album titled “Gorillas,” in which the facial recognition software categorized him and his friend as primates. Immediately, Alcine poste…

Google apologizes after app mistakenly labels black people 'gorillas' · 2015

Google has come under fire after the image-recognition feature in its Photos application mistakenly identified people with dark skin as "gorillas."

Jacky Alciné of New York City tweeted a picture of himself and a friend on Sunday that the a…

Google Mistakenly Tags Black People as ‘Gorillas,’ Showing Limits of Algorithms · 2015

Google is a leader in artificial intelligence and machine learning. But the company’s computers still have a lot to learn, judging by a major blunder by its Photos app this week.

The app tagged two black people as “Gorillas,” according to J…

Google rushes to fix software that served up racial slur · 2015

Story highlights Google Photos tagged an African-American man's pictures of him and a friend as "Gorillas"

He highlighted the problem on Twitter, drawing the attention of a Google engineer

(CNN) When Jacky Alcine looked at his Google Photos…

Google apologizes for mis-tagging photos of African Americans · 2015

Google was quick to respond over the weekend to a user after he tweeted that the new Google Photos app had mis-categorized a photo of him and his friend in an unfortunate and offensive way.

Jacky Alciné, a Brooklyn computer programmer of Ha…

Google Photo App Labels Black Couple 'Gorillas' · 2015

Google has said it is "genuinely sorry" after its image recognition software labelled photographs of a black couple as "gorillas".

The Google Photos application, launched in May, uses an automatic tagging tool to help organise uploaded imag…

Google Photos Mistakenly Labels Black People ‘Gorillas’ · 2015

Google continued to apologize Wednesday for a flaw in Google Photos, which was released to great fanfare in May, that led the new application to mistakenly label photos of black people as “gorillas.”

The company said it had fixed the proble…

Google Photos labeled black people 'gorillas' · 2015

Google launched its Photos app at Google I/O in May. Here staffers wait to check in conference attendees at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (Photo: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press)

SAN FRANCISCO — Google has apologized after its new Photos…

Google Apologizes For Tagging Photos Of Black People As ‘Gorillas' · 2015

When Jacky Alciné checked his Google Photos app earlier this week, he noticed it labeled photos of himself and a friend, both black, as “gorillas.”

The Brooklyn programmer posted his screenshots to Twitter to call out the app’s faulty photo…

Why Google 'Thought' This Black Woman Was a Gorilla · 2015

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Google had a major PR disaster on its hands thanks to …

When It Comes to Gorillas, Google Photos Remains Blind · 2018

In 2015, a black software developer embarrassed Google by tweeting that the company’s Photos service had labeled photos of him with a black friend as “gorillas.” Google declared itself “appalled and genuinely sorry.” An engineer who became …

Google Photos Still Has a Problem with Gorillas · 2018

In 2015, Google drew criticism when its Photos image recognition system mislabeled a black woman as a gorilla—but two years on, the problem still isn’t properly fixed. Instead, Google has censored image tags relating to many primates.


Google Removed Gorillas From Search to Fix Racist Algorithm · 2018

It’s been over two years since engineer Jacky Alciné called out Google Photos for auto-tagging black people in his photos as “gorillas.” After being called out, Google promptly and profusely apologized, promising it’d fix the problems in th…

Two years later, Google solves 'racist algorithm' problem by purging 'gorilla' label from image classifier · 2018

Two years later, Google solves 'racist algorithm' problem by purging 'gorilla' label from image classifier

In 2015, a black software developer named Jacky Alciné revealed that the image classifier used by Google Photos was labeling black pe…

Google's solution to accidental algorithmic racism: ban gorillas · 2018

Google’s ‘immediate action’ over AI labelling of black people as gorillas was simply to block the word, along with chimpanzee and monkey, reports suggest

This article is more than 1 year old

This article is more than 1 year old

After Google…

Google has ‘fixed’ its algorithm that categorised people as 'Gorillas' with a not so elegant solution · 2018

tech2 News Staff

Do you remember the time when Google’s image recognition algorithm created a major controversy after it categorised a black couple as “Gorillas”?

If you don’t then we don’t blame you as this actually happened back in July 2…

Google’s Photo App Still Can’t Find Gorillas. And Neither Can Apple’s. · 2023

Eight years after a controversy over Black people being mislabeled as gorillas by image analysis software — and despite big advances in computer vision — tech giants still fear repeating the mistake.

When Google released its stand-alone Pho…


A "variant" is an incident that shares the same causative factors, produces similar harms, and involves the same intelligent systems as a known AI incident. Rather than index variants as entirely separate incidents, we list variations of incidents under the first similar incident submitted to the database. Unlike other submission types to the incident database, variants are not required to have reporting in evidence external to the Incident Database. Learn more from the research paper.

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