Incident 87: UK passport photo checker shows bias against dark-skinned women

Description: UK passport photo checker shows bias against dark-skinned women.
Alleged: UK Home Office developed and deployed an AI system, which harmed dark-skinned people and dark-skinned women.

Suggested citation format

Hall, Patrick. (2020-10-07) Incident Number 87. in McGregor, S. (ed.) Artificial Intelligence Incident Database. Responsible AI Collaborative.

Incident Stats

Incident ID
87
Report Count
1
Incident Date
2020-10-07
Editors
Sean McGregor, Khoa Lam

Tools

New ReportNew ReportNew ResponseNew ResponseDiscoverDiscover

CSET Taxonomy Classifications

Taxonomy Details

Full Description

Women with darker skin are more than twice as likely to be told their photos fail UK passport rules when they submit them online when compared to lighter-skinned men, according to a BBC investigation. Elaine Owusu, a Black student, said she was wrongly told her mouth looked open each time she uploaded five different photos to the government website. This shows how "systemic racism" can spread. The facial recognition software was used by the Home Office of the British goverment to help users get their passports more quickly. Additionally, Cat Hallam, who describes her complexion as dark-skinned, told the BBC reporters that her photos have been judged to be poor quality which included "there are reflections on your face" and "your image and the background are difficult to tell apart."

Short Description

UK passport photo checker shows bias against dark-skinned women.

Severity

Negligible

Harm Distribution Basis

Race, Sex

Harm Type

Psychological harm, Harm to civil liberties

AI System Description

The facial recognition algorithm used by the Home Office of the UK Government to identify and check for applicant's passport photos

System Developer

The Home Office of the UK Government

Sector of Deployment

Administrative and support service activities

Relevant AI functions

Perception, Cognition

AI Techniques

Facial recognition

AI Applications

Facial recognition

Location

United Kingdom

Named Entities

Elaine Owusu, The Home Office, Cat Hallam, Alan Turing Institute

Technology Purveyor

The Home Office of the UK Government

Beginning Date

10/2020

Ending Date

10/2020

Near Miss

Unclear/unknown

Intent

Accident

Lives Lost

No

Data Inputs

Passport IDs

Incident Reports

UK passport photo checker shows bias against dark-skinned women

Women with darker skin are more than twice as likely to be told their photos fail UK passport rules when they submit them online than lighter-skinned men, according to a BBC investigation.

One black student said she was wrongly told her mou…

Variants

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.