back to article Tempted to play with that Chinese Zao app for deep-fake frolics? Don't bother if you want to keep your privacy

Chinese mobile app Zao has taken the internet by storm due to its uncanny AI-based face-swapping technology, automagically and quickly painting netizens' fizogs over famous actors in movie and TV clips – but there's a hidden kicker in the code. Punters have been sharing app-generated video clips of their faces pasted onto the …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

    "personal information will be collected without consent if the data is relevant to issues of national security, the public interest, and ongoing criminal investigations"

    If I read that in any app license, that is one app I am not using. Really ? Issues of national security for a face swapping app ? Why are we suddenly in a world where absolutely any program, even the least interesting, has to talk about collaborating with the police ?

    Sure, the Chinese government is likely behind this, and it won't bother asking nicely if it wants to check out the server - but neither would the NSA.

    I'm getting sick of this state surveillance. It's time we either say "fuck you" to all this bullshit, or put up a statue to Al Qaeda and stop pretending we live in a free world.

    1. JulieM Silver badge

      Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

      Back in the day, when I was in charge of a little mailing list, we had the following data protection statement: "Your e-mail address will not be used for any purpose -- not even for keeping our own arses out of jail".

      If someone doesn't believe in something to the extent that they are willing to go to prison for it, that should tell you something.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

        Yeah. They may have a spouse and kids they have to feed. Principles sound find until it's time for dinner...

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

        > If someone doesn't believe in something to the extent that they are willing to go to prison for it, that should tell you something.

        Conversely, believing that *anyone* is willing to go to jail in order to protect *you* is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

        The problem you tend to find is that no matter how strongly someone thinks they believe in something, when they're actually facing the prospect of prison, they may well find they don't believe in it quite so strongly after all.

        If anything, I'd be more wary of someone with your claim than someone without. It indicates a certain naivety, and suggests their lack of experience might lead to them being more likely to make mistakes than someone who's a bit better grounded in reality.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

          you're not suggesting that 99.9% are, in fact... hypocrites? ;)

          ok, make it 100%, (above certain age)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

        '-- not even for keeping our own arses out of jail'

        noble intent and all that, but people did start going to jail and gradually the opinion on this changed.

    2. Daniel Hall

      Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

      But if we read every EULA and fully understood them we wouldn't be using 95% of the apps we use on any device.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

        But if we read every EULA and fully understood them we wouldn't be using 95% of the apps we use on any device.

        Some EULAs are so long they'd take 95% of your time to read. I generally try to read them but past the sixth page my eyes glaze over.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Might be a good time to start reading those EULAs

      Basically, it's pure CYA for the company. Lawyers, LEA's etc. have created this monster.

  2. sabroni Silver badge

    Not so much a social media platform...

    ...as a state surveillance agency staffed by gullible volunteers.

    (Apologies to Stewart Lee.)

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: Not so much a social media platform...

      ...as a state surveillance agency staffed by gullible volunteers.

      I doubt they are gullible volunteers, they are probably paid state-actors. Why else would an app like this be designed with the capability of collecting device browsing history in the first place?

      It's a ground up by-design by-intention state surveillance app.

  3. LDS Silver badge

    "Robert uploaded a single photo of himself"

    And he's a security researcher? I would have uploaded a photo of Lincoln, probably, if I had been testing the application....

    Moreover "national security" of what country? In China that means quite everything....

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "Robert uploaded a single photo of himself"

      From the Twitter thread:

      https://www.thispersondoesnotexist.com/

      The perfect way to test apps like this, fill in profile photos, etc...

      1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: "Robert uploaded a single photo of himself"

        Feeding an AI-generated photo to a video-generating AI? What could possibly go wrong?

        1. TomPhan

          Re: "Robert uploaded a single photo of himself"

          Next he'll be typing Google into Google.

  4. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    For a Chinese app, the privacy policy is actually being relatively transparent here - we own your stuff. The real issue is that ANY concept of privacy in China is a moot point - if the State wants your data, they’ll get it regardless of any policy.

    I stayed in a hotel in Shanghai recently. Went to check in, first thing they did was hand my passport to a suited gent who took it and disappeared out back. I was standing at the desk for a good half hour while they faffed around, asking me for room preferences, asking about my trip, recommending places to see or go, all nice enough but clearly just filling time. Then the guy came back with my passport, handed it to the receptionist and said something in Chinese, at which point I miraculously got my room key.

    What they were doing for that half hour I will never know (and probably don’t want to know). For the rest of that trip I worked under the assumption that absolutely everything I said or did was completely visible to the Chinese authorities, including in my hotel room.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      if the State wants your data, they’ll get it regardless of any policy.

      Wow, that sounds bad!

      How do we get the data out of the hands of the evil state and back where it belongs, in good old USA based advertising corporations?

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: if the State wants your data, they’ll get it regardless of any policy.

        Haha I was going to write that but didn't want to dilute the point. My trust in how the US handles my data is pretty much on a par with how China does...

      2. macjules Silver badge

        Re: if the State wants your data, they’ll get it regardless of any policy.

        Install Alexa (Arexa?) in every hotel room in Shanghai?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What they were doing for that half hour I will never know (and probably don’t want to know).

      they probably did everything you can think of (that includes cloning the passport) and many other things you wouldn't want to believe possible (remember why the xerox machines came - finally - with reinforced chassis and glass ;)

  5. IlyaG.

    ...to its uncanny AI-based face-swapping technology...

    AI answers questions and asks. If something DOESN't - it's not AI.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Define Question. A question could be; how do I accurately morph this person's eye movements onto another moving object and make it look real.

      True AI is not a glorified FAQ; it's far more than that.

      1. IlyaG.

        That's possible. What I call AI emerged as finding answers to questions in their contexts and subtexts, as NIST TREC QA demands. If you think that this is enough would you please suggest something else? And justify this something else?

        Do I mind? No. I did only what I could.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It explicitly states that personal information will be collected without consent if the data is relevant to issues of national security, the public interest, and ongoing criminal investigations. By using the app, punters agree to hand over their device information, location, and online browsing activity, too."

    Soooooo - like in any other country in the world? Why does the fact that it's explicitly stated worry you more than when it's not? The good ol' USoA government has no qualms digging in everybody's data, even when the EULA doesn't say it will. Even when they say they won't, actually. Even after they say they've stopped. Even when courts have said it's illegal. Even when it's in a different country.

    So, a Chinese company is being, if anything, *more* transparent and honest than Western ones, and somehow, this is held against them? I find that odd.

    And yes, to be sure, they definitely suck at not removing stuff they say they would. That was enough as it is, there was no need to try to pile on more stuff on it.

  7. Blackjack

    Surpising indeed!

    Is "Surpising" a clever word play or a typo?

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge
    Holmes

    See Icon

    “It’s dangerous to upload your face to a random app,” Robert told The Register on Tuesday. "Once your photo of your face is uploaded, you lose your rights on it. You have no idea how your face will be used."

    This is a true "no-shit-Sherlock" moment. But most users either haven't a clue or don't care because it's "new and shiny."

    1. eldakka Silver badge

      Re: See Icon

      Yeah, like every user of Facebook.

  9. Rich 10

    Privacy?

    What privacy - lol.

  10. TomPhan

    Search?

    Just waiting for someone to figure out the URL structure so that ZAOvideo can be searched.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Search?

      I'm sure The Party already have comprehensive documentation.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    national security, the public interest, and ongoing criminal investigations

    the idiots who clicked it because of FREEE!!!!! deserve to have their mugshot kept in the cloud forever(ish)

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