The “HP computers are racist” video went viral, with almost 2 million views, and HP, naturally, was quick to respond. “Everything we do is focused on ensuring that we provide a high-quality experience for all our customers, who are ethnically diverse and live and work around the world,” HP’s lead social-media strategist Tony Welch wrote on a company blog within a week of the video’s posting. “We are working with our partners to learn more.” The post linked to instructions on adjusting the camera settings, something both Consumer Reports and Laptop Magazine tested successfully in Web videos they put online.
Still, some engineers question how a webcam even made it onto the market with this seemingly glaring flaw. “It’s surprising HP didn’t get this right,” says Bill Anderson, president of Oculis Labs in Hunt Valley, Md., a company that develops security software that uses face recognition to protect work computers from prying eyes. “These things are solvable.” Case in point: Sensible Vision, which develops the face-recognition security software that comes with some Dell computers, said their software had no trouble picking up the black employee’s face when they tested the YouTube video.
YouTube commenters expressed what was on a lot of people’s minds. “Seems they rushed the product to market before testing thoroughly enough,” wrote one. “I’m guessing it’s because all the people who tested the software were white,” wrote another.