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You might by now have heard that Hewlett-Packard has come in for criticism for its webcams' inability to follow black faces through its face recognition software. My thanks to the NBCBayarea website for drawing my attention to this YouTube link, which pretty much proves it.

Let me make it clear at first that I don't think for a minute that HP has done this deliberately. More, I'd add that its response, which comes in for some ribbing on the Bay Area site, is entirely appropriate. It acknowledges the fault, raises some issues that might account for it (but which clearly don't in this case), and describes how its software got to the stage where it is at the moment.

This is all good stuff, but it's from the PR and communications department. The lesson in here, and it's a valuable one, is to the developers and testers; do not under any circumstances assume you've covered all the bases unless you've actually made a list and checked.

In fact, as a white man who grew up in an area of London with a substantial black and minority ethnic population, I'd suggest the most dangerous sort of racism is not when someone is a wilful bigot and actively hates people of a different colour, that's easy to deal with; it's when well-intentioned people ignore the legitimate needs of others without realising it.

Developers, your New Year's resolution (or one of them) is to make sure this doesn't happen in your company!

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