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Tool that lets users search the internet by faces gets privacy scrutiny

Critics say it could help stalkers and increase cyber surveillance.
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In case Clearview AI wasn’t making you uncomfortable enough, they now have a consumer-facing competitor called PimEyes. PimEyes finds pictures of you from across the internet, based on one or more pictures that you upload.

PimEyes claims to be using facial recognition technology for good, as a privacy tool to help you find your own photos online and get them taken down.

In theory, it sounds like a good concept. Problem is, it can also be used nefariously by bad actors, and it contributes to the push towards democratizing facial recognition technology and making it more available to the masses at increasingly more affordable rates.

Regardless of their intentions, it’s probably not a good idea to feed your selfies to train their facial recognition AI. It’s not immediately clear whether they do this when you’re simply using it to search, but if we’ve learned anything from Google, your searches will in all likelihood be used to train AI.

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We tried it out, so you don’t have to. We gave them an off-center selfie that is used on many social media accounts. Almost all of the results that came back were of wildly different people, but one actual match came up.

Along with each image result, there is a blurred out link that you need to pay in order to access. The idea here is that they help you find pictures of you on the internet, but in order to know where those images are hosted, you have to pay.

PimEyes also offers “alerts” when new results appear, meaning they likely keep your selfies saved.

What may not immediately be clear is how this kind of service can be used by stalkers, as Big Brother Watch pointed out. They said this could “enable state surveillance, commercial monitoring and even stalking on a scale previously unimaginable.”

PimEyes was a Polish hobby website set up in 2017 and commercialized last year. They’ve already amassed 6,000 signed-up users.

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