An African Canadian woman says she recently experienced issues getting a new Manitoba driver’s license photo, and she was disappointed with the explanation she received-that it had to do with her skin.
Winnipegger Tolu Ilelyaboye shares her story to raise awareness and help ensure no one else gets through the same issue she encountered.
“It’s kind of emotionally uncomfortable to sit in that space that can be like,‘ Oh, your skin isn’t natural, ’” Ilelyaboye said. Up to Speed host Faith Fundal on Friday. “It’s the most natural skin tone I have.”
Ilelyaboye said he went to two different Autopac locations for three days recently to renew his license.
At the first location, workers tried three or four times to take a picture, but Ilelyaboye was told that the computer system did not process the image.
He went somewhere else a few days later and the same thing happened.
“A woman tried to take my picture, and she told me at the time that it kept coming in as‘ unnatural color, ’and that it couldn’t take my picture,” Ilelyaboye said. “[I was] amazed at the language used. ”
He said Autopac staff had to make color correction on the images they took in order for them to be accepted by the computer system.
Ilelyaboye emailed Manitoba Public Insurance with his concerns.
In a statement to him, MPI said it has “facial recognition software and photo standards” applied to every driver’s license photo.
“You mentioned that you were advised that it was a rejection because of the skin tone or unnatural color. It could be because of the focus and lighting,” read a portion of the email in Ilelyaboye. “We apologize that it was brought to your attention in such a way.”
Ilelyaboye was disappointed by that response.
“I think that’s a cop-out response that says, you know, it’s a system problem. But systems can be changed, systems are made by people, and what is being done. of people implementing systems to fix these things? “
Ilelyaboye said cameras are so ubiquitous these days and MPI staff need to be trained to troubleshoot lighting, focus and other technical issues like this.
He also suggested that depending on how it is developed, artificial intelligence and other computer programs can be inherently racist, in this case to black people.
In a statement to CBC News, MPI said less than two percent of license photos were rejected, and that could be a result of lighting, shadows, photo clarity and other factors.
“A customer’s skin tone is not one of the factors and a photo will not be rejected for this reason,” the statement read. “If a photo is rejected, the system may display a notice of, ‘unnatural color,’ which refers to the color of the overall photo, not the customer’s skin tone.”
MPI said if such an issue occurs, employees will do “everything possible to resolve the issue” by adjusting camera settings, lighting and other environmental factors to ensure a photograph meet the instructions of its systems, which are “developed in accordance with the best practices in the whole. Canada.”
Ilelyaboye said on both occasions, MPI employees did not appear to have made any camera changes. An agent made the computer settings a second time after several failed attempts to receive the photo, he said.
He also said in one of the locations, the photo area was next to a window, and the backlight from outside likely made it difficult for the camera to capture a usable image of him.
“I can’t blame the Autopac agents, I know they’re just doing their jobs,” Ilelyaboye said. “I think the training can be done at the Autopac level to also teach people how to adjust camera settings or how to manipulate them so that people aren’t told their tone is not natural. skin. “
MPI also told CBC News that as a result of the issue it will work to fix the computer system set at the same times in progress.
“We sincerely regret any situation where a customer has a negative experience accessing our products and services,” MPI said.
“We are actively working with our technology partners to integrate a more inclusive language into our systems that is in line with our customers’ expectations and our commitment to serving all Manitobans.”
Ilelyaboye appreciated the MPI’s move.
“Improving that language is an important step but I think too … it’s about training, it’s about making sure your staff is diverse so they get things like that,” he said.
“It’s also something that needs to be addressed because Manitoba Public Insurance is a public insurance, and it’s also something that serves all Manitobans.”