Google works on a new way to measure skin tones to eliminate racial biases in its products

The company will drop the scale that measures skin tones used since 1970 because it is not a realistic representation of all people.

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22, 2021

2 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

The last year has forced all of us to recognize that racism , which we believed to be almost non-existent, is everywhere, even in unexpected places. How is it that a technological device can have racist biases? Google, like many companies in the tech world and dermatologists, uses a scale called FST (F itzpatrick Skin Type ) to categorize skin types based on their tone.

However, according to the Nasdaq site, the tech giant is working on a new way to measure skin tones to eliminate racial biases in its products.

Thomas Fitzpatrick was a dermatologist in the 1970s who created his scale to personalize the treatment of psoriasis patients. White skin is divided into 4 groups, while brown skin is grouped together in one group just like black skin. This is problematic because there are very different shades within these types and it is not representative of the vast majority of people.

Within technology, skin tones are used for different functions such as representation in emojis or facial recognition. Facial recognition has been one of the most problematic because not only does it not recognize people with darker skin, but it sometimes recognizes them as if they were of the opposite sex, and there were even two cases in which facial recognition tagged two people as color like gorillas.

Reuters questioned Google about the use of the FST.

“We are already working on more inclusive alternative methods that may be useful in product development,” the company replied without giving much detail on how they plan to do it and when it will be ready.

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