Zao, a Chinese face-swap app for iOS, goes viral in China

China fake news ban

A new deepfake iOS app called Zao went viral in China this weekend after users grew concerned about the app’s potential privacy violations, a report by Bloomberg revealed on Monday.

Zao, which is reportedly owned by Chinese social network Momo Inc, is a face-swapping app for iOS that uses deepfake technology to superimpose a user’s face into movies and series.

One user, Allan Xia, demonstrated the app’s abilities on Twitter.

“Best application of ‘Deepfake’-style AI facial replacement I’ve ever seen,” Xia said.

Through Zao, Xia manages to realistically take over several of Leonardo DiCaprio’s most iconic roles with just one picture.

Like FaceApp, which gained popularity over age-changing filters in July, Zao users have to upload pictures of themselves to the app in order to use it.

This, however, raised concerns among users after they realised that the app’s user agreement gives its developers “free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicense-able” rights to their pictures and videos.

According to Bloomberg, the policies have since been changed.

Whether or not Zao fans have given away the rights to their pictures and deepfake videos, however,  the app is still reminiscent of the DeepNude app that caused outrage in June.

As deepfake technology develops and gains popularity, the potential of such apps being used for online abuse also increases.

Feature image: Zao’s Weibo accounts, by Andy Walker/Memeburn

Shereesa Moodley


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