A New Zealander of Asian descent says he has “no hard feelings” after an online passport system said his eyes were closed, despite the fact they were clearly open.
Richard Lee, who was born in Taiwan, raised in New Zealand, and now studies in Australia, was trying to renew his passport online when the problem arose.
Lee denied the problem was racist, instead blaming the error on that fact that “it was a robot”.
“I’ve always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated”, the 22-year old DJ and aerospace engineering student told Reuters.
The Department of Internal Affairs explained that there was too much shadow in Lee’s eyes, and that around 20% of photos submitted to the passport system online were rejected for the same reason.
Some social media users were unsure how to react:
Whereas some saw the funny side, and joked about their own applications:
And some suggested the problem was perhaps systematic, though nothing to do with race:
Another photo has since been accepted, and Lee has been able to renew his passport.