The automatic object recognition feature of Google's Photos app has tagged two people of colour as gorillas

Black couple tagged as gorillas by Google's smart app

The artificial intelligence system in Google’s new Photos app has caused a scandal by tagging an African American couple as gorillas.

The racist behaviour of Google’s new app that scans photos and automatically detects objects was brought to the world's attention by software developer Jacky Alcine, one of the affected couple.

Google apologised for the mishap. "This is 100 per cent not OK. [It was] high on my list of bugs you never want to see happen," said Google executive Yonatan Zunger.

Zunger added that the internet firm was taking steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.

"We're also working on longer-term fixes around both linguistics (words to be careful about in photos of people) and image recognition itself (e.g., better recognition of dark-skinned faces),” he said.

The gorilla incident was not the first case of the Photo app, launched last year, receiving criticism for getting labels on images wrong. In May, news website iTech Post reported that the app was tagging some images of dogs as horses.

However, users can remove badly chosen tags manually, helping the Photos app to learn from its earlier mistakes and automatically improve accuracy over time.

Google acknowledged the severity of the incident, adding that "immediate action" was being taken to prevent this type of mistake happening again.

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