Digital Cameras Still Racist

This article is from the archive of our partner .

In December we helped break the momentous news that Hewlett-Packard Webcams are unabashedly racist. Their face-tracking software, it seems, refuses to track the faces of some African-American users. (Or at least the one African-American user who reported the problem.) Now it seems that Nikon and Sony digital cameras are also racist, although this time against Asians.

Time's Adam Rose reports that such models as the Nikon Coolpix S630 digital camera, which use similar face recognition software to help guide skillful picture taking, have trouble with Asian faces. Following a series of examples so fraught with racial stereotypes that we will not even attempt to summarize them, Rose concludes:

With the flurry of consumer complaints out there, most of the companies seem to be responding. HP has offered instructions on how to adjust its webcam's sensitivity to backlighting. Nikon says it's working to improve the accuracy of the blink-warning function on its Coolpix cameras. (Sony wouldn't comment on the performance of its Cyber-shot cameras and said only that it's "not possible to track the face accurately all the time.") Perhaps in a few years' time, the only faces cameras won't be able to pick up will be those of the blue-skinned humanoids from Avatar.

Rose does not explore the complex racial issues at play when cameras produced by Japanese mega-corporations for American consumers are unable to recognize Taiwanese-American faces. And we do not blame him.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.