Incident 48: Passport checker Detects Asian man's Eyes as Closed

Description: New Zealand passport robot reader rejects the application of an applicant with Asian descent and says his eyes are closed.
Alleged: New Zealand developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed Asian People.

Suggested citation format

Yampolskiy, Roman. (2016-12-07) Incident Number 48. in McGregor, S. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
48
Report Count
22
Incident Date
2016-12-07
Editors
Sean McGregor

Tools

New ReportNew ReportNew ResponseNew ResponseDiscoverDiscover

CSET Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

Richard Lee, a New Zealander of Asian descent had submitted his ID photo to an online photo checker at New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs and was told his eyes were closed. He was trying to renew his passport so he could return to Australia where he was studying aerospace engineering in Melbourne in December 2016. When asked about the incident, Lee said, "No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated."

Short Description

New Zealand passport robot reader rejects the application of an applicant with Asian descent and says his eyes are closed.

Severity

Negligible

Harm Distribution Basis

Race

Harm Type

Harm to civil liberties

AI System Description

The facial recognition software used by New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs detects passport photos to make sure they meet all the government requirement.

Sector of Deployment

Administrative and support service activities

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition, Action

AI Techniques

Facial recognition

AI Applications

Facial recognition

Location

New Zealand

Named Entities

New Zealand, Richard Lee, Department of Internal Affairs

Technology Purveyor

New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs

Beginning Date

12/2016

Ending Date

12/2016

Near Miss

Unclear/unknown

Intent

Accident

Lives Lost

No

Data Inputs

ID photos

Incident Reports

(Richard Lee / Facebook)

The Department of Internal Affairs has found itself in a bit of a blunder after a young Asian man submitting a photo for his passport had it rejected due to 'closed eyes'.

Richard Lee is a Kiwi living in Australia and was renewing his passport so he could return to the country after visiting for Christmas.

But when he submitted his photo to the Department of Internal Affair's online checker, it was rejected because it says his eyes were closed.

When Mr Lee called, he was told it was rejected due to the shadow in his eyes and "uneven lighting".

He went back to Australian Post and took some new photos, one of which was accepted, and his new passport showed up on Wednesday.

But while some have called the system 'racist', Mr Lee isn't taking it so seriously.

"I thought it was hilarious, not racist at all," Mr Lee told Newshub.

"It's pretty impressive that in the past 80 years we've gone from Turing Machines to a computer that could read a human face and notice the eyes are a bit smaller."

An Internal Affairs spokesperson told Newshub around 20 percent of photos are rejected for a variety of reasons, and the error Mr Lee received - that his eyes were closed - is just a generic error message.

"It would be impossible to have an error message for every circumstance," the spokesperson said.

"Photos are rejected for a wide variety of reasons but we don't believe our systems discriminate against any specific set of individuals."

Mr Lee's photo went viral after he posted it on his Facebook page, and he says he didn't expect it to get so big.

"I posted it as I found it funny and it's good banter for my friends," he said.

And he and his friends had a bit of fun with the error message was posted online, sharing edited images which showed larger eyes.

Passport blunder sees photo rejected for 'closed eyes'

A man of Asian descent in New Zealand had his passport application rejected after the software that approves photos claimed his eyes were closed.

Richard Lee, a 22-year-old DJ and student, had his photo turned down by the Department of Internal Affairs' application website when trying to get his passport renewed.

Despite submitting a front-facing photo with his eyes clearly open, the website said Mr Lee's picture did not meet requirements because the "subject eyes are closed". After the website repeatedly rejected the photo, Mr Lee was forced to call the department.

Robot passport checker rejects Asian man's photo for having his eyes closed

A screenshot of New Zealand man Richard Lee's passport photo rejection notice, supplied to Reuters December 7, 2016. Richard Lee/Handout via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A New Zealand man of Asian descent had his passport photograph rejected when facial recognition software mistakenly registered his eyes as being closed.

Richard Lee’s attempt to renew his passport was blocked after he submitted the picture to an online passport photo checker run by New Zealand’s department of internal affairs.

The automated system told the 22-year-old engineering student the photo was invalid because his eyes were closed, even though they were clearly open, according to a copy of the notification posted on social media site Facebook.

“No hard feelings on my part, I’ve always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated,” Lee told Reuters.

“It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end.”

Up to 20 percent of passport photos submitted online are rejected for various reasons, an Internal Affairs spokesman said.

“The most common error is a subject’s eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in this case,” he said.

The lighting in Lee’s first photo was uneven, but a later one was accepted, he added.

New Zealand passport robot tells applicant of Asian descent to open eyes

AN Asian man’s passport photo was rejected by the New Zealand government after its facial recognition software claimed his “eyes were closed”.

Richard Lee, who is originally from Taiwan, shared a screenshot of the awkward error message on Facebook, prompting dozens to slam the technology as “racist”.

RICHARD LEE / FACEBOOK 5 Richard Lee's passport photo was rejected by the New Zealand government after its facial recognition software insisted his “eyes were closed”

The DJ, who grew up in New Zealand and has since moved to Australia, wanted to renew his passport so he could go home for Christmas.

But he was shocked when his snap was rejected, with a message popping up which read: “The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because: Subject eyes are closed”.

He told news.com.au he tried a few different pictures with “no luck” – despite his eyes being open in all the shots.

RICHARD LEE / FACEBOOK 5 The DJ, who is originally from Taiwan, shared a screenshot of the awkward error message on Facebook

“So I rang up the passport office and they told me there was shadowing in my eyes and also uneven lighting on the face, which makes it hard for the software to process,” he said.

The 22-year-old, also known as DJ Richy Fancy, finally got one accepted after taking new passport photos at an Australia Post office.

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Richard insisted he did not think the computer glitch was “racist”, but others on social media were not so sure.

After reading the pop-up message from the Department of Internal Affairs, one Facebook user wrote: “Racist much?”

RICHARD LEE / FACEBOOK 5 Richard insisted he did not think the computer glitch was “racist”, but others on social media were not so sure

RICHARD LEE / FACEBOOK 5 Richard then jokingly shared another shot on Facebook using a Snapchat filter which gave him huge cartoon eyes

“Technology is getting racist,” another user commented.

Another Facebook user wrote: "Sue for racism."

Richard then jokingly shared another shot on Facebook using a Snapchat filter which gave him huge cartoon eyes.

"I hope they accept this one. Wish me luck," he captioned the picture.

RICHARD LEE / FACEBOOK 5 The DJ, who grew up in New Zealand and has since moved to Australia, wanted to renew his passport so he could go home for Christmas

The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs said the software was “one of the most technologically advanced in the world”.

“Up to 20 per cent of photos submitted online are rejected for a large variety of reasons,” a department spokesman said.

“The first photos in this case contained uneven lighting on the individual’s face but a later one was accepted the same day.

“The most common error is a subject’s eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in that case.”

The spokesman said the department had confidence in the technology and did not believe they discriminated against any specific individuals.

Asian man’s picture is rejected by New Zealand’s passport photo software because his “eyes were closed”

MOVE OVER Prince Philip, your racist remarks about Asian facial expressions are as nothing to the gesture of one Passport checking facial recognition robot.

Richard Lee, 22, was unable to renew his New Zealand passport after the software which checks photo submissions rejected him nine times.

The reason? His eyes were closed.

Except they clearly weren’t. He was born in Taiwan. His eyes are supposed to be like that. It's called an Epicanthic fold or plica palpebra nasalis and it's a geographic norm.

Legendarily, in 1986 Prince Philip told a group of British students in Xian, China, "If you stay here much longer you'll all be slitty-eyed."

Now it appears that face recognition software offers similar ethnic gaffery.

After sharing the picture on Facebook, many people protested and told him he should sue for racism but Mr Lee, a student and DJ, was able to joke about it, telling Reuters: "No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated.

"It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end."

A spokesman for the New Zealand Department for Internal Affairs explained that up to 20 per cent of submissions were rejected, with closed eyes being the most common reason, thus making the software quite sensitive to them.

For his part Mr Lee has created a picture which improves the issue somewhat, saying he hopes that it will be accepted first time.

Erm. Yes. It's funny because he did it himself.

Automatic facial recognition passport gates are now becoming commonplace at UK airports after being adopted by Passport Control or, to give them their full ridiculous title "Border Force" which sounds like a version of He-Man for the Donald Trump era.

They don’t work properly and, based on our experiences, have made getting back into Britain even more miserable than it was before.

Back in 2006. the biometric data stored on passports was hacked, though this was before widespread adoption. At the moment, Border Force is looking into smartphone passports. µ

New Zealand passport reader accuses Asian of having 'eyes closed'

THE NEW Zealand government was accused of being racist after its passport renewal software failed to recognise an Asian man’s picture.

Richard Lee is from Taiwan but grew up in New Zealand. He has since moved to Australia and he went to renew his passport on Tuesday morning online so he could go back home for Christmas.

He had never renewed his passport before, and was pretty surprised when the facial recognition software failed to accept his passport photo.

An awkward error message popped up on the screen saying: “The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because: Subject eyes are closed”.

Mr Lee’s eyes were clearly open.

“I tried a few different ones and no luck,” he told news.com.au.

“So I rang up the passport office and they told me there was shadowing in my eyes and also uneven lighting on the face, which makes it hard for the software to process.”

Mr Lee, also known as DJ Richy Fancy, got new passport photos taken at an Australia Post office.

“Fortunately one of them got through,” he said.

Mr Lee, 22, uploaded a picture of his rejected passport to Facebook because he found it hilarious.

“Like, I know I have small eyes so it’s nothing racist. It’s actually impressive a computer can notice that,” he said.

“Like it’s obviously a programming error, nothing racist.”

But many people were far less forgiving, considering his eyes were clearly open.

“Technology is getting racist,” one person commented.

A number of others said it had also happened to them in the past.

Mr Lee said it was nice to see how many Aussies and Kiwis supported him.

“And also how many of my fellow Asians saw humour in it,” he said.

“Like, there are situations where obviously you have to stand up but other times it really is a great laugh.”

The New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs told news.com.au the software was “one of the most technologically advanced in the world”.

“Up to 20 per cent of photos submitted online are rejected for a large variety of reasons,” a department spokesman said.

“The first photos in this case contained uneven lighting on the individual’s face but a later one was accepted the same day.

“The most common error is a subject’s eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in that case.”

The spokesman said the department had every confidence in the systems and did not believe they discriminated against any specific individuals.

The department issues around 25,000 online applications a month and more than half of eligible adult renewals are done digitally.

NZ government accused of racism after passport renewal software ‘failed’ Asian man’s photo

At the very least, Lee had a sense of humor about the situation. Using a Snapchat filter that ever so slightly exaggerated his features, he took another picture in which his eyes were more robot-friendly.

Racist robot rejects Asian man's passport photo, claiming 'eyes are closed'

A New Zealand man of Asian descent had his passport photograph rejected when facial recognition software mistakenly registered his eyes as being closed.

Richard Lee's attempt to renew his passport was blocked after he submitted the picture to an online passport photo checker run by New Zealand's department of internal affairs.

Also Read: After disastrous Tay, Microsoft to release another chatbot

The automated system told the 22-year-old engineering student the photo was invalid because his eyes were closed, even though they were clearly open, according to a copy of the notification posted on social media site Facebook.

"No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated," Lee told Reuters.

"It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end."

Up to 20 percent of passport photos submitted online are rejected for various reasons, an Internal Affairs spokesman said.

"The most common error is a subject's eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in this case," he said.

The lighting in Lee's first photo was uneven, but a later one was accepted, he added.

Also Read: Microsoft's AI Twitter bot goes dark after racist, sexist tweets

Racist robot? New Zealand govt website tells Asian man to open eyes, rejects passport

Facial recognition is cool technology, but it’s not perfect. It’s used in many applications and services to provide an easier means of verification, such as Windows Hello using the tech to unlock Windows 10 so users aren’t required to manually enter credentials. But there are requirements to using facial recognition, such as holding your head just right and keeping your eyes wide open.

One New Zealand man of Asian descent discovered just how frustrating current facial recognition can be. He recently submitted a photograph of himself to renew his passport online, but was rejected because the facial recognition software claimed his eyes were closed, when in fact they were not.

The photo was submitted to the online passport photo checker used by New Zealand’s department of internal affairs. Twenty-two-year-old engineering student Richard Lee received a notification of the photograph’s rejection through a message posted on Facebook, stating that his eyes were closed and doesn’t meet the criteria.

“No hard feelings on my part, I’ve always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated,” Lee told Reuters. “It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end.”

Lee, who was born in Taiwan and is currently studying aerospace engineering and business management in Melbourne, submitted his photo on Monday so he could return to Australia after visiting family in New Zealand this Christmas. He contacted the Department of Internal Affairs to find out why his photo was rejected, and was told that it wasn’t accepted due to the uneven lighting on his face.

Intent on renewing his passport, he submitted additional images for consideration, all of which were rejected by the facial recognition system. He then placed another call to find out the errors were due to the shadows in his eyes and the uneven lighting on his face. To resolve the issue, he headed to the Australian Post and had a new batch of pictures shot. Only one of them managed to be accepted.

That said, he finally renewed his passport, but the problem with the facial recognition fiasco led to nasty comments on Facebook, claiming that technology is getting racist, and more. Other Facebook users claimed to have had the same problem with facial recognition technology.

“Some people get offended way too easily because they’re not as confident with their origins,” Lee told The Daily Mail Australia. “At the end of the day we’re all different and of course there are certain situations where you have to stick up and some situations it’s just a good laugh.”

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Internal Affairs, up to 20 percent of the photos uploaded for passport renewals are rejected for various reasons. The most common error with photos is that the subjects’ eyes are closed. In the case of Richard Lee, the system generated a generic error message because it was unable to explain the actual problems.

Facial Recognition Tells An Asian Man His Eyes Are Closed

Can software be racist? No, though humans can inadvertently design programs that appear racially insensitive, or, as was the case with Microsoft’s Tay chatbot, intentionally turn an AI into a raging hatemonger. Facial recognition systems occasionally fall into the former category; the latest incident saw a New Zealand man of Asian descent have his passport photo rejected because the software thought his eyes were closed.

Twenty-two-year-old Richard Lee was attempting to renew his passport online but was surprised when the photo checker blocked his picture. “Subject eyes are closed,” read the notification, despite the fact they are clearly open. It seems the software was having trouble with Taiwan-born Lee’s epicanthal folds.

The engineering student, who is currently studying Aerospace Engineering and Business Management in Melbourne, contacted the Department of Internal Affairs to find out why the system was having a problem with his picture. A spokesperson told him 'uneven lighting on the face' caused it to be rejected, and explained that up to 20 percent of passport photos submitted online are rejected for various reasons, the most common being that the subject’s eyes are closed.

Lee wasn’t offended by the automated system’s response. "No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated," he told Reuters. "It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end."

The incident shows that while facial recognition has come a long way, there are still bumps in the road. Last year, Google found itself in trouble after its software labeled two black people in a photograph as “gorillas.”

Lee said he saw the humor in his situation. “'Some people get offended way too easily because they're not as confident with their origins... At the end of the day we're all different and of course there are certain situations where you have to stick up and some situations it's just a good laugh.” He even uploaded the image below to Facebook.

Facial recognition software rejects Asian man's passport photo because it thinks his eyes are closed

Anyone who's dealt with the complexities of passport photo requirements would probably jump at the chance to have their pics checked online, but automated systems can have their own complications, as a New Zealand man recently learned.

Screenshot: YouTube/New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs

Richard Lee, 22, was using his country's online passport checker when he encountered an unexpected error: The website said his photo was unacceptable because "subject eyes are closed". Lee's eyes, of course, were open, they just had epicanthal folds.

Photo: Facebook

"I tried different ones and no luck, so I rang the office they said it's to do with the shadow in my eyes and uneven lighting in the face," Lee later told Daily Mail Australia. "So I got a few new ones taken at Australian Post and one of them went through."

While Lee was eventually able to circumvent the software, his experience highlights how biases can get engineered into seemingly impartial systems. Early colour film, for instance, was optimised for white skin, making it difficult to correctly expose people of colour. And since Facebook began enforcing its "real name" policy, Native American users with names like "Creepingbear" have repeatedly reported getting suspended from the site.

Lee, however, says he was personally unfazed by the incident.

"The error message didn't bother me that much, I saw the humour in it and obviously it's a programming error in the recognition software," said Lee. "Just a bit annoying with the delay and I'd expect to get a staff reply after 3 failed submissions."

[Mashable]

New Zealand Passport Website Rejects Asian Man's Photo For Having 'Closed' Eyes

Another knock against the robots.

Earlier this week, an Asian New Zealander posted a screenshot to Facebook showing his passport photo being rejected for having closed eyes, even though they are visibly open. Twenty-two-year-old Richard Lee—an engineer student from New Zealand who was born in Taiwan and is currently studying in Melbourne, Australia—was trying to renew his passport online using an algorithm-based photo-checker operated by New Zealand’s department of internal affairs.

Lee took the mess-up in stride. “No hard feelings on my part,” he told Reuters. “I’ve always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated.” He also told Mashable that he ended up taking more photos, one of which was accepted by the system.

Passport-photo errors are common—as many as 20% of photos submitted to the system Lee used are rejected, most often for closed eyes—but the complexities are indicative of broader issues with facial-recognition technology. As far back as 2010, Time magazine reported that people using digital cameras equipped with similar algorithms had similar issues: Cameras would warn that people’s eyes (particularly people of Asian descent) were closed when they weren’t.

The racist stereotypes surrounding Asians’ eyes goes back even further. While Lee’s passport kerfuffle may have been an accident, it’s one we don’t want algorithms repeating.

An algorithm rejected an Asian man's passport photo for having "closed eyes"

Image copyright Reuters/Richard Lee

A New Zealander of Asian descent has shrugged off the rejection of a passport application photo by software because of his eyes.

The system sent an error message after deciding Richard Lee's eyes were closed, when they are clearly open.

It was not racism he suggested. "It was a robot. No hard feelings."

The DJ and aerospace engineering student had submitted the photo to an online photo checker at New Zealand's Department of Internal Affairs.

"No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated," the 22-year-old told Reuters.

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Mr Lee is studying in Melbourne, Australia.

Born in Taiwan but brought up in New Zealand, he was trying to renew his passport so he could return to Australia after a Christmas break in New Zealand.

After contacting the Department of Internal Affairs, he was told there was too much shadow in his eyes. Another photo was later accepted and the passport renewed.

A department spokesman said up to 20% of photos submitted online were rejected, usually because the subject's eyes are closed.

"That was the generic error message sent in this case," he said.

New Zealander says passport photo rejection 'not racist'

No one likes their passport photo. No matter how well you dress up or fix your hair or do your makeup, you’ll always look just a little bit awkward with a poker face, ears out, and facing the camera head-on.

Well one man looked nice enough in his passport photo, and yet his photo was still rejected!

It was because the passport scanner made a “racist” error when it rejected his photo because it said:

The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because: Subject eyes are closed.

As you can see, he has "9 attempts left" to submit a photo where his eyes aren't "closed."

Richard Lee of New Zealand got his passport renewal blocked when he submitted his photo to an online passport photo checker at New Zealand’s Internal Affairs. And it promptly rejected his photo because the scanner thought his eyes were closed.

It’s obviously a tech error in this case. But considering Richard Lee’s eyes are more or less the average for people of East Asian descent, just imagine how many people have had their passport photo rejected because the machine thought their eyes were closed!

The New Zealand Department of Immigration released a statement regarding the issue:

“Up to 20 percent of photos submitted on line are rejected for a large variety of reasons. “We provide customers with helpful online resources to make it easier for them to take suitable passport photos and note that in this case a second photo was submitted on the same day and the individual was issued with a NZ passport.”

Either way, Richard Lee seems to have been a pretty good sport about it as he posted a different photo on his Facebook page.

Let’s all hope New Zealand’s Department of Immigration addresses this issue as it will be a huge hassle to be told that your eyes aren’t big enough to qualify as “open!”

Racist Passport Machine Rejects Photo Because "Subject's Eyes Are Closed"

DECLINED: The robots did not accept this photograph

Richard Lee, 22, sent a picture to a new online passport photo checker run by the government in New Zealand.

But the automated system told the furious DJ and engineering student his photo was invalid as his eyes are closed — even though they were clearly open.

He shared a copy of the notification with friends on Facebook.

Passport photo rejected by 'racist' facial recognition robot in New Zealand

A New Zealand man of Asian descent had his passport photo rejected by a government website when its facial recognition software registered his eyes as being closed.

Richard Lee was trying to renew his passport so he could return to Australia from New Zealand after Christmas on Monday but received an awkward error message when he submitted his picture to Internal Affairs's online passport photo checker.

The automated system told the 22-year-old DJ, who is currently studying Aerospace Engineering and Business Management in Melbourne, that his eyes were closed, despite them being quite obviously open.

The club promoter said the response he received online after the image was posted was 'unexpected' but welcomed. Photo / Richard Lee Facebook

"The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because subjects eyes are closed," the message read.

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Mr Lee, who was born in Taiwan but grew up in New Zealand, contacted the Department of Internal Affairs shortly after to ask why his photo was not accepted.

A spokesperson told him "uneven lighting on the face" caused it to be rejected.

"I tried different ones and no luck, so I rang the office they said it's to do with the shadow in my eyes and uneven lighting in the face," Mr Lee told Daily Mail Australia.

"So I got a few new ones taken at Australian Post and one of them went through, finally."

But his friends had already posted an image of the bungle to Facebook and social media users started suggesting the machine was 'racist'.

"Technology is getting racist," one user wrote.

"Dude, his eyes are clearly open: posted another.

Several others claimed they had experienced the same problems when using facial recognition technology.

Mr Lee said he was not bothered by the incident and did not believe it was a race issue.

"The error message didn't bother me that much, I saw the humor in it and obviously it's a programming error in the recognition software," Mr Lee said.

"Just a bit annoying with the delay and I'd expect to get a staff reply after 3 failed submissions," he added.

The DJ, known as Richy Fancy, uploaded a humorous image to Facebook shortly after the error message was posted using a Snapchat filter that widens the subject's eyes with the caption: "I hope they accept this one".

The DJ uploaded a humorous image to Facebook shortly after the error message was posted using a Snapchat filter that widens the subject's eyes. Photo / Richard Lee Facebook

A spokesperson for the Department of Immigration said the software is "one of the most technologically advanced in the world' but that rejections were common.

"Up to 20 percent of photos submitted on line are rejected for a large variety of reasons,'" they told Daily Mail Australia.

"We provide customers with helpful online resources to make it easier for them to take suitable passport photos and note that in this case a second photo was submitted on the same day and the individual was issued with a NZ passport."

The suggestions for users who receive a message about their eyes being closed is: "Retake the photo and make sure the eyes are open".

Man sees humour in 'racist' facial recognition software

A computer-generated response said the photo of a New Zealander of Asian descent did not meet New Zealand's criteria because the 'eyes are closed'

Published 9:24 AM, December 08, 2016

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A New Zealander of Asian descent had his passport photo rejected because it was wrongly believed his eyes were closed, but government officials Thursday, December 8, said it was a computer error and not discrimination.

Melbourne-based Richard Lee was attempting to renew his passport before returning to New Zealand for Christmas only to have facial recognition software at New Zealand's department of internal affairs turn down the application.

A computer-generated response said the photo did not meet New Zealand's criteria because the "eyes are closed."

Taiwan-born Lee, 22, who grew up in New Zealand before moving to Australia to study, was not bothered by the rejection, but some of his friends quipped in Facebook posts that perhaps the New Zealand government had a "racist" robot.

However, internal affairs spokesman Steve Corbett told Agence France-Presse their systems did not discriminate "against any specific set of individuals" and in Lee's case the issue was with the lighting.

"The most common error is a problem with lighting casting shadows onto the face, which the facial recognition technology interprets as closed eyes and that was the generic error message sent in this case," Corbett said.

Up to 20% of photos submitted online are rejected for a large variety of reasons, he added.

Lee, who is studying aerospace engineering at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said he was not bothered by the rejection.

"I saw the humor in it and obviously it's a programming error in the recognition software," he told reporters.

He posted a copy of the rejection letter on his Facebook page and described the publicity surrounding it as "shameless self promotion" for his alter ego as DJ Richy Fancy. – Rappler.com

'Racist' robot rejects Asian-face passport photo

A New Zealand man of Asian descent had his passport photo rejected when facial recognition software registered his eyes as being closed.

Richard Lee was trying to renew his passport so he could return to Australia from New Zealand after Christmas, but was blocked after he submitted the picture to an online passport photo checker run by NZ's department of internal affairs.

The automated system told the 22-year-old engineering student the photo was invalid because his eyes were closed, even though they were clearly open, according to a copy of the notification which was posted to Facebook by his friends.

However the young DJ, currently studying Aerospace Engineering and Business management in Melbourne, could see the lighter side.

"No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated," Mr Lee said.

"It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end."

Up to 20 percent of passport photos submitted online are rejected for various reasons, an Internal Affairs spokesman said.

"The most common error is a subject's eyes being closed and that was the generic error message sent in this case," he said.

The lighting in Lee's first photo was uneven but a later one was accepted.

After his friends posted an image of the bungle to Facebook, social media users started suggesting the machine was racist.

"Technology is getting racist," one user wrote.

"Dude, his eyes are clearly open,” another posted.

Passport robot donned ‘racist’, tells applicant of Asian descent to open eyes

(CNN) It's a common annoyance, you're filling out a form online and you get some error.

New Zealander Richard Lee was applying for a passport online when the system objected to the image he uploaded.

"The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because: subject eyes are closed," it said

But Lee, who is of Asian descent, had his eyes open.

"I fell off my chair laughing," he told CNN. "Like, I know I have small eyes and I have no problem with it. But the fact that a computer can notice as well, that's just hilarious."

Read More

New Zealand passport robot thinks this Asian man's eyes are closed

A Palmerston North woman is alleging she was racially profiled by a health centre worker who said she didn't look like a Kiwi and asked for passport proof of her New Zealand citizenship.

But the health centre says the situation was a misunderstanding and checks were important to see if patients were eligible for government help.

Gina Chompinitkul, a New Zealand citizen of 10 years, was asked to provide proof of this on a visit to The Palms Medical Centre.

Warwick Smith/Stuff Gina Chompinitkul was asked to provide her passport at The Palms Medical Centre as evidence of her New Zealand citizenship.

The staff member allegedly told the stunned woman and her husband only people who "look foreign" had to produce a passport.

READ MORE:

  • NZ passport robot tells applicant of Asian descent 'open your eyes'

  • Citizenship confusion costs five-time community board member

  • Citizen rights and obligations

Chompinitkul, originally from Thailand, was unable to visit her usual family GP over the New Year period, so went to The Palms as a casual patient when she was suffering from a cold.

She said the service was fine until it became "uncomfortable" when she was asked to provide a passport to prove her citizenship, so she could receive a subsidy.

Chompinitkul supplied her New Zealand driver licence, but was told that wasn't enough.

She had never previously been asked produce a passport in New Zealand, nor does she carry it around with her.

Her husband Volker Schroeter​ questioned the request and said they were told by the staff member everybody had to produce a passport.

"My question in return was, so what if John Smith, the fella from Feilding comes here? And then she said to us, 'well I know when somebody is a Kiwi. I can tell. Only people who look foreign have to produce a passport'.

"The point that we are making, and my wife felt quite humiliated about, was this expression of, well, I'd call it racism.

"Because you look foreign and because you speak with an accent, you must produce a passport."

The couple ended up agreeing to bring the passport back the next day.

Palms chief operations officer Bob Lissington​ said the whole issue had likely stemmed from a misunderstanding.

While he couldn't comment on the alleged remarks of the receptionist, racial profiling wasn't part of the centre's way of operating, he said.

When a casual patient comes to the centre, it was policy to check their name against a national register that includes the patients of every GP in the country.

If their name doesn't show up, the receptionist will ask for an NHI number or a passport as proof of citizenship to show they're eligible for the government-subsidised rates.

"That's not an uncommon practice ... I think most New Zealanders would likely be up in arms if we didn't make sure people weren't getting something the weren't entitled to."

He said Chompinitkul's name might not have shown up, even if she was registered at another GP, because of a spelling error by either the Palms receptionist or when her name was first entered on the register.

"[I understand] it must have been frustrating, and the receptionist could possibly have handled things better, but going forward there should be less misunderstandings like this."

'Racist' passport request riles New Zealand citizen of 10 years

Look at this picture of 22-year-old Richard Lee. Do his eyes look open to you? Of course they do. But that didn’t stop an automated online system from rejecting his passport renewal because, according to the facial recognition software, his eyes were deemed to be closed.

“The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because: subject eyes are closed,” reads the form that Richard recently posted on Facebook. The online passport checker is run by New Zealand’s department for Internal Affairs, but it clearly needs a little recalibrating in order to recognize people of different ethnicities. Fortunately the engineering student found the funny side, and his passport was renewed after a later photograph was accepted.

More info: Facebook

Look at this picture of 22-year-old Richard Lee. Do his eyes look open to you?

Of course they do! But not according to New Zealand’s online passport checker

He recently tried to renew his passport but the system rejected him because his eyes were apparently closed

The system helpfully provided examples of what Richard should actually look like…

Fortunately the engineering student found the funny side, and his passport was renewed after a later photograph was accepted

Maybe he would have had more luck if he looked like this

New Zealand Passport Photo Checker Rejects Asian Guy’s Picture, Says His Eyes Are Closed

A New Zealand passport scanner made a ‘racist’ error when it rejected the photo of a man of Asian descent because it thought his eyes were closed.

Richard Lee had his passport renewal blocked when he submitted his photo to an online passport photo checker run by New Zealand’s Internal Affairs.

The facial recognition software rejected his application because it thought his eyes were closed, when they were very much open.

"The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because [the] subject’s eyes are closed," the message read.

Lee, an Aerospace Engineering and Business Management student, was renewing his passport so he could return to Australia after Christmas when he got the awkward message.

He contacted the Department of Internal Affairs to see why it had been rejected and was told, “uneven lighting on the face” was the reason.

"I tried different ones and no luck, so I rang the office they said it's to do with the shadow in my eyes and uneven lighting in the face," he told the Daily Mail. "So I got a few new ones taken at Australian Post and one of them went through, finally."

Luckily, Lee was good natured about the mishap. "It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end," he said.

When he posted the message on Facebook, some people commented that the machine was racist.

“I posted it initially because I found it hilarious not necessarily racist,” Lee said. “But it was really heart-warming to see so many of my friends in New Zealand and Australia jumping in and saying something, which is what makes us such great countries to call home.”

Lee even posted an image of himself with a Snapchat filter that widens user's eyes, on Facebook, saying, “wish me luck."

"Up to 20 percent of photos submitted on line are rejected for a large variety of reasons,” a New Zealand Department of Immigration spokesperson told Daily Mail Australia.

"We provide customers with helpful online resources to make it easier for them to take suitable passport photos and note that in this case a second photo was submitted on the same day and the individual was issued with a NZ passport."

‘Racist’ passport machine accuses Asian man of having eyes closed

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