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Zao is a new face-swapping app with privacy concerns in China

03 September 2019 0

This past weekend, a new face-swap application named Zao went viral in China. The app was released on the Chinese App Store on Friday and very soon, it became and is still the most downloaded free app on the platform. The reason behind the app going viral at such an insane rate is that it allows users to swap their faces with any celebrity from any movie or TV show video clip.

It means the Zao app allows you to see yourself replacing celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kit Harrington, and Sheldon Cooper using video clips of their respective movies/TV shows. The app makes use of artificial intelligence to come up with these deepfake videos which are so convincing that you would not be able to tell the difference between the original clip and face-swapped clip.


A Twitter user Allan Xia has shared a video demonstrating how he was able to swap his face in a video clip starring Leonardo DiCaprio's different movie characters. The more fascinating aspect is that he was able to do so with just one image of his and that too within only eight seconds.

It goes without saying that the whole premise of the app is tempting and the end result is even more impressive. But soon enough, people started to talk about privacy concerns raised by Zao app's privacy policy which went unnoticed in the beginning. It mentioned that the app had a “free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicense-able” right to all the content generated by users. It essentially means that all the face-swapped videos with the face of users are a property of the app developer team which itself is owned by Momo Inc., a popular Chinese hookup and live-streaming company.

This resulted in Zao app receiving a lot of backlash and users leaving negative reviews on the App Store listing. The good thing is that it had an effect on the app developers who went on to update their privacy policy. The new policy states that all of the user-generated content will only be used for making the app better or for purposes pre-agreed with users. It further adds that if a user chooses to delete any content from the app, it will also be removed from the company servers.

Zao even offered an official statement on the situation, “We understand the concern about privacy. We’ve received the feedback, and will fix the issues that we didn’t take into consideration, which will need a bit of time."

This is not the first time we are seeing something like this happening. As recent as a couple of months ago, another face-swapping app FaceApp went viral as it allowed users to see what they would look like in old-age. It made use of an old-age filter to transform one's selfie into an old man look.


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