Am I imagining things, or is face-swap technology developing at an alarming rate?
It started with deepfakes, which could be used to put anyone’s face onto anyone’s body. Naturally, people used this to create porn.
One creator of deepfakes, ‘Ctrl Shift Face’, also used it to make a very disturbing video featuring Bill Hader, Tom Cruise, and Seth Rogen.
Watch that at your own risk.
Following on from deepfakes, there was FaceApp – an app that allowed you to change your appearance. We spent a joyful few minutes one sunny afternoon in the office seeing what we’d look like if we were old.
Spoiler – people often look like their parents.
Then it emerged that the app is owned and made by Russians, and people started freaking out about their privacy, and how their information was being handled.
All of that brings us to today’s story about Zao, a free deepfake face-swapping app from China that is following in the footsteps of FaceApp, as users freak out about a perceived threat to their privacy.
Before we take a closer look at the panic, here’s The Verge with some info on how Zao works:
Twitter user Allan Xia posted a neat demonstration of what the app is capable of yesterday with a 30 second clip of their face replacing Leonardo DiCaprio in famous moments from several of his films.
According to Xia, the clips were generated in under eight seconds from just a single photograph, however Bloomberg notes that the app can also guide you through the process of taking a series of photographs — where it will ask you to open and close your mouth and eyes — to generate more realistic results.
Wonderful. Let’s see it in action:
Yeah, that’s pretty creepy.
You can see another example of the app in action here:
I think it’s easy to see why people are concerned about their privacy.
Well done, guys.
If you’re wondering why this is such a big deal, let me give you an example of how this technology can be used if it falls into the wrong hands.
Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong are going to great lengths to cover their faces over fears that police are using facial recognition technology to identify and arrest targets.
These are the same police that are using extreme brutality to subdue protesters at demonstrations.
The long and short of it is that if you’re using a free app, the company that made it is probably profiting from your data.
Read those privacy policies and do a bit of research before clicking ‘download’.
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