MPI computer system glitch tells African-Canadian woman getting photo license that her skin tone is unnatural

An African-Canadian woman says she recently had trouble getting a new Manitoba driver’s license photo and is frustrated with the explanation she received – that it had to do with her skin tone.

Winnipegger Tolu Ilelaboye is sharing her story to raise awareness and help ensure no one else is going through the same issue she faced.

“It’s really emotionally uncomfortable to sit in this space and be like, ‘Oh, your skin tone is unnatural,'” Ilelaboye said. Up to speed host Faith Fundal on Friday. “It’s the most natural skin tone I have.”

Ilelaboye said she recently went to two different Autopac locations over the course of three days to renew her license.

At the first location, workers tried three or four times to capture an image, but Ilelaboye was informed that the computer system was not processing the image.

She went to a different place a few days later and the same thing happened.

“A woman tried to take my picture, and she told me at the time that she kept showing ‘unnatural color’ and couldn’t capture my image,” said said Ilelaboye. “[I was] surprised by the language used.”

She said Autopac staff had to color-correct the images they took in order for them to be accepted by the computer system.

Ilelaboye emailed Manitoba Public Insurance with his concerns.

In a statement to it, MPI said it has “facial recognition software and photo standards” that apply to every driver’s license photo.

“You mentioned that you were told it was a rejection due to skin tone or unnatural color. It could be due to focus and lighting” , reads part of the email to Ilelaboye. “We apologize that this has come to your attention in this way.”

“Dodge Response”

Ilelaboye was frustrated by this response.

“I think it was a cop-out response saying, you know, it’s a system problem. But systems can be changed, systems are created by people, and what do the people who implement those systems do? to fix these things?”

Ilelaboye said cameras are ubiquitous these days and MPI staff should be trained to troubleshoot lighting, focus and other technical issues like these.

She also suggested that depending on how it is developed, artificial intelligence and other computer programs can be inherently racist, in this case towards dark-skinned people.

In a statement to CBC News, MPI said less than 2% of license photos are rejected, and this can be a result of lighting, shadows, image clarity and other factors.

“A client’s skin tone is not one of these factors and a photo would not be rejected for this reason,” the statement read. “When a photo is rejected, the system may display an ‘unnatural color’ notification, referring to the color of the overall photo, not the client’s skin tone.”

MPI apologizes

MPI said that when such an issue occurs, employees do “everything possible to resolve the issue” by adjusting camera settings, lights and other environmental elements to ensure that a photo adheres to its systems guidelines, which are “developed in accordance with best practices across Canada.”

MPI said “we sincerely regret any situation where a customer has a negative experience” and will work with its technology partners to resolve the issue. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

Ilelaboye said that in both cases, MPI employees did not appear to make such adjustments to the camera. An officer changed the computer settings in a second step after several failed attempts to get the photo accepted, she said.

She also said that in one of the places the photo area was next to a window and the backlighting from outside probably made it more difficult for the camera to capture a usable image of her. .

“I don’t blame the Autopac agents, I recognize they were just doing their job,” Ilelaboye said. “I think training could be done at the Autopac level to also teach people how to adjust camera settings or how to manipulate them so people aren’t being told their skin tone is unnatural.”

MPI also told CBC News that because of the issue, it will work to correct the wording of the computer system in similar cases in the future.

“We sincerely regret any situation where a customer has a negative experience when accessing our products and services,” MPI said.

“We will actively work with our technology partners to embed a more inclusive language into our systems that aligns with our customers’ expectations and our commitment to serving all Manitobans.

Ilelaboye appreciates that MPI takes action.

“Correcting that language is an important step, but I also think… it’s about training, it’s about making sure your staff are diverse so they pick up on this stuff,” he said. she declared.

“It’s also something that should be addressed because Manitoba Public Insurance is public insurance, and it’s also something that serves all Manitobans.”

Gordon K. Morehouse