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Terrifying Chinese Deepfake ZAO is the Coolest App You’ll Sell Your Privacy To – CCN Markets

Terrifying Chinese Deepfake ZAO is the Coolest App You’ll Sell Your Privacy To – CCN Markets
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ZAO, China, App, Chinese App

Viral Chinese app ZAO is at the center of a privacy storm. | Source: REUTERS/Florence Lo/Illustration

Zao is the app of the moment, ranking atop Chinese app sales charts in less than a week. The Zao uses Deepfake technology to allow people to plaster their own faces on top of any character they want after a scan that takes just a few seconds. So far it’s only officially available in China, though a few Westerners have already been able to get in on the program.

ZAO works surprisingly – terrifyingly well even

Ever wanted to see how you would look like in Leonardo Dicaprio’s shoes? You can, as long as you have access to the app, and 8 seconds to spare.

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

It works even with video game characters.

Oh yeah, #Zao also works rather well with CG characters. I guess folks might not have to spend hours during character creation? I can see streamers loving this application of AI facial replacement. #DMC5 pic.twitter.com/AdpB4DIA00

— Allan Xia (@AllanXia) September 2, 2019

What about a computer-generated character, whose skin complexion doesn’t even match the user’s face? No problem, the app matches everything for the user surprisingly well. A user can even make every character in a scene look like him if he so desires.

A new line probably needs to be drawn when it comes to “Transformative work” and I’d imagine new clauses will be drawn up in actor’s contracts since #Zao‘s success sets an clear example the advertising industry will not be able to ignore. Next #Avengers movie trailer anyone? pic.twitter.com/rSywFYoYeJ

— Allan Xia (@AllanXia) September 2, 2019

It does raise some serious privacy concerns

Coming from China, regardless of how cool and harmless it looks, any tech that requires a picture of someone’s face should raise eyebrows. This is a country that’s actively invests in isolation and control of its population. No better way to achieve this than by getting all citizens to happily give away all their data under the guise of a cool app. The user agreement paints a bleak picture, which reveals that on signing, users are giving away the rights for every image captured.:

…[F]ree, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicenseable…

The app’s devs have pledged to make changes to the agreement, but that remains to be seen.

Zao is not even the first time China is creating apps that look horrifying in hindsight. In 2017, they released “Clap for Xi Jinping”, where players compete to show who can applaud Xi Jinping’s speeches the hardest. That’s horrifying coming from a country that intends to implement a social credit system that rewards or punishes the population video game style by evaluating how much love they show for their government.

The Deepfake tech could usher in an even worse age of fake news.

Think Fake News has peaked? Even if the government doesn’t end up using the user data for nefarious means, and it doesn’t get stolen or sold to an evil third party, you still have the worst to be afraid of. In a time when dumb fake news easily sways millions daily, it’s hard to imagine such easy to use technology not being used to create mischief. How long until we see world leaders declare wars they wouldn’t otherwise? We’ll soon find out, as the app’s success makes it too big to stay confined to China’s mainland for long.

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