Is ZAO safe to use? Viral Chinese app creates terrifying deep fakes based on one selfie

3 September 2019, 12:23

Chinese app ZAO lets you turn into a TV character with one selfie
Chinese app ZAO lets you turn into a TV character with one selfie. Picture: ZAO via App Store, @AllanXia via Twitter
Katie Louise Smith

By Katie Louise Smith

The popular app has already sparked privacy concerns over its concerning terms and conditions.

First it was Face App, and now another facial recognition tech app is taking the world by storm.

ZAO, a new Chinese app from developer Momo, allows users to create deepfakes using something as simple as a selfie. (Deepfakes, if you don't already know, are essentially videos that use the power of AI to digitally paint one person's face over another.)

READ MORE: Does FaceApp own your photos? How to delete FaceApp following security concerns

After being released on Friday (Aug 30), videos have already been shared to to social media of faces superimposed onto Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet, and even actors in Game of Thrones.

Basically, the app will let you replace literally anyone's face on a TV show, in a movie, meme or political speech based on one single selfie. But while that sounds amazing, the app has of coursed raised huge concerns over privacy issues.

Since being released on Friday, the app has shot up the download charts and has seen millions of people using the technology to create these hilarious videos. However, users have been pointing out problems in the app's terms and conditions and have highlighted just how dangerous deepfakes like this could potentially be.

ZAO's terms of service have caused some concerns about what happens to your identity once you upload it into the app, as reported by Daily Dot.

“One clause in particular is causing consternation as it appears to give the app’s developers the global rights to use any imagery created on the app for free,” reports Chinese site RADII. “Once a user has opted in, there doesn’t seem to be the right to revoke the agreement.”

According to RADII, ZAO has now updated the user terms. The update says, "The new agreement states that content generated on the app will now no longer be used for other purposes without the user’s prior consent. It also says that if a user deletes content on ZAO, this will be wiped from ZAO’s databases too."

For now, ZAO only lets you superimpose your face onto certain selected clips, as reported by artist Allan Xia on Twitter, but as always, remember to be careful with what images you upload to facial recognition apps.

While ZAO has its limits, deepfakes could eventually be used to spread huge amounts of misinformation. If you're able to replace Leo DiCaprio's face with your own in a quirky viral video in just a matter of seconds, think of what could be achieved to create something much more harmful... including, in some cases, revenge porn.

Unfortunately, it appears as though the app is only available in Chinese app stores so if you wanna see what you'd look like as a convincing Jon Snow, you might just have to wait.