New Zealand passport facial recognition software tells Asian descent applicant to open eyes
A Department of Internal Affairs reportedly said that 'uneven lighting on the face' caused his photo to be rejectediStock

A New Zealand man of Asian descent had his passport photo rejected by online facial recognition software after it mistakenly registered the applicant's eyes as being closed. Twenty-two-year-old Richard Lee's attempts to renew his passport ended up in his receiving an odd error response, with the automated passport photo checker determining that his eyes were closed, despite them being open, according to reports.

Lee, who is currently studying aerospace engineering and business management in Melbourne, received a message that read: "The photo you want to upload does not meet our criteria because subject's eyes are closed," the Daily Mail reported.

"No hard feelings on my part, I've always had very small eyes and facial recognition technology is relatively new and unsophisticated," Lee told Reuters."It was a robot, no hard feelings. I got my passport renewed in the end."

A Department of Internal Affairs reportedly told Lee that "uneven lighting on the face" caused his photo to be rejected. "I tried different ones and no luck, so I rang the office they said it's to do with the shadow in my eyes and uneven lighting in the face," Lee told Daily Mail Australia. "So I got a few new ones taken at Australian Post and one of them went through, finally."

Lee posted the error response message he received on social media, which sparked much interest in the incident. He added: "I posted it initially because I found it hilarious not necessarily racist. But it was really heartwarming to see so many of my friends in New Zealand and Australia jumping in and saying something, which is what makes us such great countries to call home."

According to an immigration department official, the facial recognition software currently employed is "one of the most technologically advanced in the world". However, rejections are not uncommon, with up 20% photos submitted online rejected for a "large variety of reasons".

One of the suggestions provided to users who receive such messages reportedly reads: "Retake the photo and make sure the eyes are open."