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China’s Zao face-swap app raises privacy issues

Zao, the Chinese face-swapping app has rocketed over the weekend to the top of app store charts, but consumer joy in the promise of becoming overnight superstars quickly turned sour as privacy risks started to appear.

Recently launched, Zao is currently topping the Chinese iOS store free download list. Its success has driven Yanji, another face-swap app, to third. Behind Zao is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Momo Inc. Chinese hookup and live streaming network. According to incorporation records of public companies, President Wang Li and co-founder Lei Xiaoliang.

App users upload a photo of themselves to famous scenes from hundreds of movies or TV shows. It is an opportunity to be in a matter of moments star and trade places with the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory.

Nevertheless, the photo uploads have proven troublesome. The actual image may be generated by a user or a series of paintings created on the screen where they blink their eyes and open their mouth to help to create a more realistic depth. An earlier version of the Zao user agreement specified that the app’s rights to all this user-generated content are’ free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and copyrightable.’ Zao has since revised its Terms— the app now claims it will not use user-uploaded headshots or mini-videos for other than improving applications or user-accepted things. When users remove the content they have downloaded, the software will also delete it from its servers.

But it was not fast enough, as a surge of negative reviews that now saw Apple Inc. had deluded Zao. App Store’s score is 1.9 out of five stars, after more than 4,000 reviews. Several users complained about the question of confidentiality.

“We appreciate the privacy concerns. We received feedback and will solve those problems that we did not take into account, which will take a bit of time, “said a post on Zao’s social media platform Weibo.

This isn’t the first time these face-to-face apps are popular in China or elsewhere, but Zao’s seamless and quick incorporation of facets into videos and internet memories makes them stand out.

The machine learning technology that supports profound developments of this kind has quickly matured to the point where famous personalities such as Joe Rogan can believably be represented and conveyed to them whatever the aspiring fakers are. American politicians are faced with the dilemma of how to address this growing problem of disinformation, and Democrat leader Adam Schiff has described it as a “nightmare scenario” for the presidential election in 2020.

FaceApp is the most popular and accessible deep facial modification app to date at the individual level. For two occasions, it was viral worldwide, showing people how they looked at their young age or gender. The app has also caused an unfounded privacy panic by uploading images to stored databases to show a growing vulnerability to how user data is handled.

The Tencent Holdings Ltd. operates a messaging app that banned the service, following users flooding WeChat, the most commonly used social media platform in China, with Zao-enabled short clips and GIFs, saying there are numerous reports of “security risks.” Tencent did not comment immediately on the decision.

“I just noticed the words are so unfair, but it’s too late,” wrote Zao’s dissatisfied iOS reviewer. “More people don’t bother to read it now,” said another reader, “Rubbish, hooligan code.”

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