Zao, the controversial Chinese app that exchanges faces

by Kelvin

Zao It is the latest app that is causing a furor in China, thanks to its technology that swap faces. It is able to place the user's face in fragments of famous films, something very striking, although it has generated controversy for its operation.

Zao has gone viral fast because, just by taking a picture, he is able to put our face on well-known movie scenes. For example, it manages to obtain a quite acceptable result by placing us in the skin of Leonardo DiCaprio on Titanic, as the photos of the Twitter from @AllanXia.


This app is based on artificial intelligence techniques to create deepfakes, that is, video montages where the face is exchanged. Deepfakes have been used to discredit politicians or to strip women in the controversial Deep Nude, but Zao focuses on pure entertainment.

Zao is an innocent app, but that such a technology is available to anyone suggests a future full of fake videos, where it is difficult to know who to trust. If hoaxes and fake news are already a serious problem on the Internet, deepfakes make the picture more complicated.

For the moment, Zao can only be downloaded in China. It can only be downloaded at local app stores, and requires a Chinese phone number to log in. It is more than possible that similar applications reach the West, but for now there is none so advanced.

Image - Zao, the controversial Chinese app that exchanges faces

The problem of personal data

Recently, FaceApp, able to make us old in a photo, generated doubts similar to Zao. Its creators, based in China, even indicated in legal terms that images that users uploaded became their property.

The same happens in the case of Zao, although it seems unlikely that they will make real use of all those photos. What seems likely, however, is to use them to train your "neural networks", a type of computer program for artificial intelligence that is based on comparing many data.

That Zao is a true privacy problem is something that already depends on the perspective. Although Chinese legislation is lax and there are few controls, large American multinationals such as Facebook They have also used personal data for very questionable purposes.

So the controversy regarding the use of photos for the exchange of faces is not very different in Zao with respect to other apps, social networks and services, unless we know at the moment.

For now it is difficult to install Zao, by requiring verification through a number from China, but it is clear that similar apps will end up arriving. While they are for leisure purposes and the face exchange Do not seek to deceive anyone, technology should not be problematic.

What do you think of Zao? Do you think that an app that exchanges faces has a disturbing potential beyond putting our face in Leonardo DiCaprio's movies?

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