Business & Economy New Chinese 'deepfake' swap celebrity face app faces backlash on privacy concerns

New Chinese ‘deepfake’ swap celebrity face app faces backlash on privacy concerns

Zao has a range of videos and GIFs to choose from, featuring popular Western celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Marilyn Monroe.

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A new face-swap app has risen, this time allowing people to change faces with their favourite celebrities.

The Chinese app called Zao works by superimposing an image of the user’s face onto a character in a video or GIF using artificial intelligence (AI).

After backlash from users, it is updating its policies over concerns about privacy and on the usage of the extremely convincing fake image technology.

Zao was just recently introduced to the world on Friday (Aug. 30) when it was uploaded to China’s iOS App Store, and by Sunday (Sept. 1), it was the most downloaded free app on the store, according to tracking firm App Annie.
Users can sign up to Zao with a phone number and then proceed to upload images of their faces from their phone’s gallery or camera.
Zao has a range of videos and GIFs to choose from, featuring popular Western celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Marilyn Monroe. Users can select any of the videos or GIFs to superimpose their face onto.
The results are fairly seamless, and of course, exciting. Who doesn’t want to look like Leo di Caprio, even for a moment? Zao lets you share results with friends via different social media platforms.
People jumped at the chance to face swap with celebrities, so the app’s popularity was through the roof.
But those who actually read the user agreement noticed that it stated that those who uploaded their photos to the app surrender intellectual property rights to their face and allow Zao to use their image for marketing, according to Reuters.
Thanks to the cries for privacy, Zao has updated its user agreement.
Another issue with Zao is how the edited images could be used. The fake audio and video files created by the app are so convincing—they look disturbingly real.
These fakes—popularly known as “deepfakes”—aren’t a new trend, what with Photoshop and the like. Prior to easy apps like Zao, a multimedia artist would have to spend a good deal of time, skill and even money to create the fakes.
Apps like Zao bring that technology to every smartphone user around the world.
On Tuesday (Sept. 3), Zao issued a statement regarding the users’ “concerns about privacy and safety issues”.
“This is a new product. We were indeed inconsiderate about people’s core concerns,” the company said in a statement posted on Chinese social media website Weibo.
The updated version of its user agreement states that Zao “will try its best, based on the privacy terms, to use the content you have authorised us to use within a reasonable, necessary and expressly stated extent”.
This, too, was added—”Your necessary authorisation and agreement will not change your ownership of the intellectual property rights.”
In its statement, the Chinese company also assured its users that it would not store “facial biometric data” on its app. It said it would remove all information about users “according to the law” when they delete their accounts.
CNN reported that Zao’s parent company Momo Inc. said that the assurances would also apply to any users who signed the app’s original terms and conditions, before they were updated.
Popular Russian app called FaceApp, which allows users to edit their faces to make themselves look younger, older and of a different gender, also faced a similar outcry when users discovered that they were giving up rights to their photos. /TISG
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