A face search engine anyone can use is alarmingly accurate

0 47

[ad_1]

By Kashmir Hill, The New York Times Company

For $29.99 a month, a website called PimEyes offers a potentially dangerous superpower from the world of science fiction: the ability to search for a face, finding obscure photos that would otherwise have been as safe as the proverbial needle in the vast digital haystack of the internet.

A search takes mere seconds. You upload a photo of a face, check a box agreeing to the terms of service and then get a grid of photos of faces deemed similar, with links to where they appear on the internet. The New York Times used PimEyes on the faces of a dozen Times journalists, with their consent, to test its powers.

PimEyes found photos of every person, some that the journalists had never seen before, even when they were wearing sunglasses or a mask, or their face was turned away from the camera, in the image used to conduct the search.

PimEyes found one reporter dancing at an art museum event a decade ago, and crying after being proposed to, a photo that she didn’t particularly like but that the photographer had decided to use to advertise his business on Yelp. A tech reporter’s younger self was spotted in an awkward crush of fans at the Coachella music festival in 2011. A foreign correspondent appeared in countless wedding photos, evidently the life of every party, and in the blurry background of a photo taken of someone else at a Greek airport in 2019. A journalist’s past life in a rock band was unearthed, as was another’s preferred summer camp getaway.

Unlike Clearview AI, a similar facial recognition tool available only to law enforcement, PimEyes does not include results from social media sites. The sometimes surprising images that PimEyes surfaced came instead from news articles, wedding photography pages, review sites, blogs and pornography sites. Most of the matches for the dozen journalists’ faces were correct. For the women, the incorrect photos often came from pornography sites, which was unsettling in the suggestion that it could be them. (To be clear, it was not them.)

A tech executive who asked not to be identified said he used PimEyes fairly regularly, primarily to identify people who harass him on Twitter and use their real photos on their accounts but not their real names. Another PimEyes user who asked to stay anonymous said he used the tool to find the real identities of actresses from pornographic films, and to search for explicit photos of his Facebook friends.

The new owner of PimEyes is Giorgi Gobronidze, a 34-year-old academic who says his interest in advanced technology was sparked by Russian cyberattacks on his home country, Georgia.

Gobronidze said he believed that PimEyes could be a tool for good, helping people keep tabs on their online reputation. The journalist who disliked the photo that a photographer was using, for example, could now ask him to take it off his Yelp page.

PimEyes users are supposed to search only for their own faces or for the faces of people who have consented, Gobronidze said. But he said he was relying on people to act “ethically,” offering little protection against the technology’s erosion of the long-held ability to stay anonymous in a crowd. PimEyes has no controls in place to prevent users from searching for a face that is not their own, and suggests a user pay a hefty fee to keep damaging photos from an ill-considered night from following him or her forever.

“It’s stalkerware by design no matter what they say,” said Ella Jakubowska, a policy adviser at European Digital Rights, a privacy advocacy group.

[ad_2]

Source link

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.