Opps, New Zealand’s border security systems are slightly racist

richard lee eyes closed 2

Asian man’s passport photo was rejected by Government’s website because the software insisted that his eyes were closed and therefore doesn’t meet the criteria.

Wow, this is taking things to a new level … See the original story [BBC]

  • Richard Lee uploaded his photo to the New Zealand’s online passport service
  • The software rejected the photo because his “eyes were closed”
  • The error was posted to Facebook and people claimed the software was racist
  • Mr Lee said that is didn’t bother him and made light of the situation


The system sent an error message after deciding Richard Lee’s eyes were closed, when they are clearly open. It was not racism he suggested. “It was a robot. No hard feelings.”

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The DJ and aerospace engineering student had submitted the photo to an online photo checker at New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.

“No hard feelings on my part, I’ve always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated,” the 22-year-old told Reuters.

Mr Lee is studying in Melbourne, Australia, born in Taiwan and brought up in New Zealand, he was trying to renew his passport so he could return to Australia after a Christmas break in New Zealand.

After contacting the Department of Internal Affairs, he was told there was too much shadow in his eyes. Another photo was later accepted and the passport renewed.

A department spokesman said up to 20% of photos submitted online were rejected, usually because the subject’s eyes are closed.
“That was the generic error message sent in this case,” he said.

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Mr Lee saw the funny side in all of this, and in a direct response to feedback Mr Lee had on Facebook, he posted the following photo. 

I hope the accept this one e

Some stories are like this are just too funny or awkward to believe. With a reliance on automated software these days, this kind of thing is bound to happen. And with so many citizens with Asian decent, shouldn’t New Zealand have better provisions in place?

Have you had a similar experience? Tell us your stories in the comments below.