‘Racist’ Passport Robot Rejects Taiwanese Man’s Photo Because His ‘Eyes Aren’t Open’

Richard Lee had his passport picture rejected by a government website in New Zealand because of a fault in the face-recognition software that registered his eyes as closed.

Lee, 22, who was born in Taiwan but raised in New Zealand, tried to renew his passport so he could travel back to Australia after Christmas on Monday, according to the NZ Herald.

But he was blocked after submitting his photo to an online passport checker run by the department of internal affairs.

asian-1

 

The 22-year-old engineering student, who is currently studying aerospace engineering and business management in Melbourne, received an error message from the automated system, saying the photo was invalid because his eyes were shut, even though Lee was very obviously awake.

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

asian-2

A spokesperson for the department of internal affairs told Lee that the reason it was rejected is because of “uneven lighting on the face.”

A copy of the notification was posted on Facebook and users started calling out the machine for racism.

Technology is getting racist,” one user commented.

Dude, his eyes are clearly open,” another person wrote.

Others have claimed they have experienced similar issues when using the facial recognition software.

Lee, who also performs as a DJ under the name Richy Fancy, posted a hilarious selfie to Facebook using a Snapchat filter that widens the face and eyes, accompanied by the caption: “I hope they accept this one.”

Lee said the issue didn’t bother him and believes it wasn’t about race.

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.”

According to an internal affairs spokesman, about 20% of passport photos are rejected online for several reasons.

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

If users receive a message about their eyes being closed, the department suggests taking the picture again and make sure your eyes are wide open.

Support our Journalism with a Contribution

Many people might not know this, but despite our large and loyal following which we are immensely grateful for, NextShark is still a small bootstrapped startup that runs on no outside funding or loans.

Everything you see today is built on the backs of warriors who have sacrificed opportunities to help give Asians all over the world a bigger voice.

However, we still face many trials and tribulations in our industry, from figuring out the most sustainable business model for independent media companies to facing the current COVID-19 pandemic decimating advertising revenues across the board.

We hope you consider making a contribution so we can continue to provide you with quality content that informs, educates and inspires the Asian community. Even a $1 contribution goes a long way. Thank you for everyone’s support. We love you all and can’t appreciate you guys enough.

NextShark is a leading source covering Asian American News and Asian News including business, culture, entertainment, politics, tech and lifestyle.

For advertising and inquiries: info@nextshark.com