Is The iPhone X Racist?

A woman in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing has been offered a second refund after faulty facial recognition software on two iPhone X handsets allowed her colleague to unlock them.

As The South China Morning Post reports, the woman, identified only by her surname Yan, told the Jiangsu Broadcasting Corporation that despite activating and configuring each phone’s facial recognition software, her work colleague was able to get into both devices on every attempt.

Yan said the first time it happened, she called the Apple hotline, but the staff would not believe her.

Shen then went with her colleague to the nearest Apple store, where her colleague used facial recognition on the phone to demonstrate the issue to staff, according to the report.

The store said the camera might be faulty and gave Yan a refund. But the new iPhone X that she bought also had the same problem, prompting the shop to offer another refund, the report said.

No details were given about whether the woman decided to purchase a third iPhone X. Apple did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

So the question is... does the iPhone X (or its operating system) think all young Chinese women look the same? ... and therefore, is it racist?


snblitz Dec 18, 2017 2:31 PM Permalink

I worked in facial recognition technology 2003-2007 for an international security firm.

Technologists, such as myself, and researchers in Asian countries were well aware of the short comings of facial recognition in those countries.

You can find discussion of the issues in scientific papers of the time.

Today you can ask an AI to what degree differential data exists in Asian faces.

A researcher I worked with in South Korea said to me: "Asians look more alike than Americans."

Remember when HAL 9000 went insane due to conflicting programming that was embedded in his mind? (you might need to read 2001 and 2010)

The AIs are being embedded with similar sorts of work-a-rounds to keep them from noticing reality and making statements about it.

By the way is it really racism to say that these people look more alike than those people?

And does it really change if we talking about 2 people, 100 people, or million people.

If I have an AI making the assessment how can repeating the AI's assessment be racist?

Some human embedded the racism in the AI you say?

Current AI's do not work that way.

When an AI processes data is does not have an understanding of what it is looking at. All it does is identify to what degree things are similar.

An AI identifies a stop sign in that a stop sign is distinct from a yield sign and a dog. An AI does not know what a stop sign is.

An AI could be trained to push a brake pedal in response to identifying a stop sign, though with the current state-of-the-art this would be bad idea. Can you imagine AIs learning to drive based on the behavior they observe human drivers engaging in?

The Terrible Sweal Dec 18, 2017 9:29 AM Permalink

Why the hell would anyone want a phone that you can't lend to a spouse or kid anyway?  Face recognition is not a benefit, it's a drawback.  People who fall for Apple's shit are victims.

The Count Dec 18, 2017 8:43 AM Permalink

this is so fucking stupid, it just shows once again the world population has lost its collective mind. there are millenial bloggers all over the world living in their parents basement just waiting to pounce on anything the can point their fingers at.also, see the scandal a couple years back how the tread on some boots caused an uproar with the Greek Orthodox church (cross-like).

pc_babe Dec 18, 2017 8:24 AM Permalink

Had to get battery repair yesterday in Kowloon. The guy at the Apple store yesterday said ... its the most returned iPHONE they have ever sold.

zeroboris Dec 18, 2017 8:06 AM Permalink

So the question is... does the iPhone X (or its operating system) think all young Chinese women look the same? ... and therefore, is it racist?

No, it's merely buggy techology.

DavidFL Dec 18, 2017 7:51 AM Permalink

It would not surprise me to find out (some point in the near future) that the NSA is collecting all this face and fingerprint data from these phones. The faces and prints are verified to the person - what an easy way to capture accurate data!

sunshine_units DavidFL Dec 18, 2017 10:56 AM Permalink

According to privacy expert JJ Luna, one should NEVER cross a border - especially a US border - with a phone secured by fingerprint reader.Why?You can decline to give a passcode, but not a fingerprint.Although his advice is also that it's best to travel with a bare phone without data, to use a burner phone, or to ship the phone ahead and then pick it up after you clear customs.

In reply to by DavidFL

cherry picker Dec 18, 2017 7:09 AM Permalink

The fifth horseman of the apocalypse used AI to guide his horse and he was a super techno geek charged to make us all like little politically correct robots without souls.He is the one to be wary of.

cherry picker Dec 18, 2017 6:42 AM Permalink

Who needs it?Anyone can pick up my Android and use itBut then again, I always have in on my desk or in my pocket and don't have it tied to my bank account.Just another hurdle to make things more complicated than they need to be and to help .gov collect more info about us.There is not one big corporation that can be trusted.  They will turn in any customer for any reason if there is a buck in it.

JuicedGamma Dec 18, 2017 5:56 AM Permalink

Another fail for AI. Remember how bad the first voice recognition was?

Where was QA on this? You could see it coming, they probably tested it on themselves.

nati Dec 18, 2017 5:43 AM Permalink

Oh man, I can't wait for the Internet of Things to go live, I am sure there won't be any hiccups like this when we are all connected to everything else!

any_mouse nati Dec 18, 2017 6:33 AM Permalink

IoT already is live.

Those wireless cameras, home routers, etc. have been hacked for a while now.

Anything simple and cheap that has an IP address is like a drunk chick in a frat house.

They come with minimal or no security. No security updates.

With tech knowledge and the will and time to work at it, they can be more secure. Way beyond most people. Like setting VCR & microwave clocks. "Do I have to?"

In reply to by nati

PT Conscious Reviver Dec 18, 2017 10:34 AM Permalink

The alternative is to program your computers to transmit random gibberish 100% of the time.  Let it fill up their hard drives.  Let them waste resources trying to "decypher" it. (All well and good until they take you to court, claiming they have found your "key" - just meaning they picked some number that turns the random gibberish into something incriminating.)

In reply to by Conscious Reviver

Tugg McFancy Dec 18, 2017 4:53 AM Permalink


Dwarsligger Dec 18, 2017 3:04 AM Permalink

Neither the faulty technology nor the racial aspects are the issue here. It's the biometrics.

Last June, at the United nations ID2020 Platform for Change Summit, a host of business leaders, NGOs and clever technological people put their heads together to see how biometrics could serve as an intermediary step towards giving every global citizen a 'digital financial identity' INSIDE their body.

David Treat, Accenture's MD, said: "I appreciate the point that biometrics is on the way out". No kidding. He then refers to a "a token, a necklace as a device" but doesn't specify.

These people have summit after summit, but never really say what they really mean. What do they mean when they say that vaccinations are the 'Entry Point' for giving every global citizen a number that will access their whole life via their mobile phone? Are they going to give every newborn baby a mobile phone at the point of vaccination?

No. The mobiles are only going to be readers (as well as tracking & tracing and listening devices, which they already are) for accessing bank accounts, driving license, health data, DNA and family information and so on.

Biometrics are bad enough, people, but they are only a step to train us into accepting our bodies as a number in the system.

What if your identity was always in your hands?…

TheSilentMajority Dec 18, 2017 2:57 AM Permalink

The problem was not that the facial recognition software failed, rather it was this Apple error message that popped up on the iphone screen:

“Ewar 404. Ho yee fook. sun ting wong.”

I Write Code Dec 18, 2017 2:24 AM Permalink

Are their fingerprints also similar?  LOL.   That's what they get for having their eyes just so far apart and an equal distance from the end of their noses.  Maybe if they slap each other around for a few minutes they can individualize each other.  Apple makes products "for the rest of us", but not necessarily them.  ROFLMAO