ReutersSep 03, 2019 08:13:05 IST
ZAO — a new Chinese app that lets users swap their faces with celebrities, sports stars or anyone else in a video clip — racked up millions of downloads on the weekend but swiftly drew fire over privacy issues.
The app’s surge in popularity and sudden backlash from some users highlights how artificial intelligence (AI) technologies bring about new concerns surrounding identity verification.
ZAO was uploaded to China’s iOS App Store on Friday and immediately went viral. According to a post from the app makers on China’s Twitter-like Weibo, ZAO’s servers nearly crashed due to the surge in traffic.
In case you haven't heard, #ZAO is a Chinese app which completely blew up since Friday. Best application of 'Deepfake'-style AI facial replacement I've ever seen.
Here's an example of me as DiCaprio (generated in under 8 secs from that one photo in the thumbnail) pic.twitter.com/1RpnJJ3wgT
— Allan Xia (@AllanXia) September 1, 2019
Chinese #Deepfake App Censured Over Privacy Concerns
Netizens demanded that the Zao face-swapping app be removed from app stores after noticing that it had reserved the right to sell user-generated content to third parties. https://t.co/PF2FDS8JJC pic.twitter.com/J6R1B8CBAC
— David Paulk 波大卫 (@davidpaulk) September 3, 2019
According to App Annie, a firm that tracks app downloads all over the world, ZAO was the most-downloaded free app in China’s iOS App Store as of 1 September.
Consumers sign-up for ZAO with their phone number and upload images of their face, using photographs taken with their smartphone.
They can then choose from a range of videos of celebrities on which to superimpose their face, and share the videos with their friends.
It’s time for a thread about #ZAO, the new Chinese app which blew up since Friday. The app is accessible only to Chinese people for the moment but I managed to get an account 😉
This "AI facial" app allows you to add your face on predefined clip.
— Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) September 2, 2019
In addition to Chinese celebrities, other famous faces on the app include Leonardo DiCaprio and Marilyn Monroe.
Gu Shi, a 21-year-old student in Shanghai, downloaded ZAO after seeing her friends post clips on their WeChat feeds.
“I’ve never tried using Japanese makeup and hairstyles because it’s too complicated to do all by myself,” she told Reuters.
“This app gave me a chance to try a totally different style from my normal life.”
One section of the user agreement stated that consumers who upload their images to ZAO agree to surrender the intellectual property rights to their face, and permit ZAO to use their images for marketing purposes.
Zao said on Weibo that it would address those concerns.
“We thoroughly understand the anxiety people have toward privacy concerns,” the company said. “We have received the questions you have sent us. We will correct the areas we have not considered and require some time.”
ZAO was published by Momo Inc, best-known as makers of a dating app that later transformed into a livestreaming service. The company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2014.
Momo did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
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