New Chinese Face-Swapping App Goes Viral, Initiating Questions Over Privacy Concerns

The Chinese app had to quickly delete its privacy regulations over the weekend.
Fabienne Lang
Face swap through ZaoSam Driver-Tweddell/Twitter

Face-swapping apps have been all the rage this year, with FaceApp, an aging app going viral last month, and now a free Chinese app by the name of 'Zao' has been in the spotlight since launching just Friday last week

However, much like FaceApp, Zao has received strong controversy against its privacy regulations.

After hitting the top of the app charts in terms of popularity, Bloomberg shared its concerns over a particular privacy clause the app was operating under, which meant it had "free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicense-able" rights to all images and content uploaded. 


How does Zao work?

In a matter of seconds, user pictures uploaded to the app replace famous actors' faces in clips of movies, or TV shows. 

The likes of Samwell Tarly from Game of Thrones or Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory change faces as user's faces are placed on top of the actors' moving faces. 

For a minute, you can be a famous star in a well-known show or movie. Impressively, it's all done in just a few seconds.

Users aren't able to choose which movie they are placed into, but it's an entertaining face-swap regardless. This face-swapping method falls under the category of deepfakes, which uses artificial intelligence to superimpose images onto one another.

Weibo, China's Twitter's equivalent also hosted a huge number of Zao face-swaps.

Twitter was one of the social media apps that had a lot of face-swaps showing how Zao operates, with users posting their new famous faces.

Why did Zao delete its privacy clause?

Upon launching just last Friday and gaining a high number of users in just a day, the app, in essence, could use and forward images uploaded to its site to any third party. Moreover, Zao could do so without any permission from the owner of the image. Furthermore, if a third party uploaded an image of someone else, the person in the image would have no say in what happens to their photo. 

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So, what did Zao users do?

They posted a large number -- believed to be up to 4,000 negative reviews -- on the App Store.

This was enough for the app developers, known as Momo, to remove the clause and delete all images that had previously been uploaded by users. 

The app developers have yet to rewrite a new clause. 

A China-wide used messaging service called WeChat has gone so far as to block the App.

For now, your claim to fame via Zao is still possible, but it may not last very long.

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