A facial recognition tool called PimEyes has recently gone from unknown to infamous.
PimEyes makes it easy to find photos of people scattered across the internet. It’s not necessarily surprising – reverse image searches have been around for years – but it turns out that PimEyes is surprisingly good at identifying people with a single photo.
The New York Times reports(Opens in a new window) that he found images that were several years old, even though the sample image featured people wearing sunglasses or face masks. Other factors like different facial hair, new hairstyles, or the passage of time didn’t seem to make a big difference either.
For some, a tool like PimEyes might just be a novelty. But for others, it’s a nightmare.
CNN reporting(Opens in a new window) that Cher Scarlett, a software engineer who led the #AppleToo movement before leaving the company, is in the latter camp. The report goes on to detail how “PimEyes brought back a real nightmare that happened nearly two decades ago.”
Scarlett herself explains in a blog post(Opens in a new window) that PimEyes charges her $300 a month to hide all images of her – some of which are said to have tags such as “abuse”, “torture” and “strangulation” – from its search results. (However, the images remain available on their original websites.)
PimEyes responded to the resulting review with a blog post(Opens in a new window) in which it is said:
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PimEyes merely provides a tool, and the user is obligated to use the tool responsibly. Anyone can buy a hammer, and anyone can either craft with this tool or kill. It is impossible to verify that certain individuals use all the tools in their possession in accordance with the law and it is unwise to require toolmakers to ensure that their product will be used as it is intended to be used. If PimEyes starts verifying each user and comparing it to the data the user is looking for, it could turn the company into a behemoth that not only stores each subscriber’s personal and biometric data, but the materials that in most case, they would. likes to leave confidential. Therefore, it is of crucial importance for the company to have an open communication policy, to cooperate with the media and various information platforms to encourage ethical use of the service and the Internet.
The company also claims that it is “an elaborate set of internal rules [sic]” and that “accounts with suspicious activity are monitored and if there is a problem [sic] they are suspended. But the company also notes that items deleted from its database under its opt-out program — for which people have to pay — can end up in its database if uploaded elsewhere.
Unfortunately, bringing attention to this issue has also made PimEyes more popular. The company has updated its “News and Updates(Opens in a new window)page on May 25 to say that “Due to increased traffic, the PimEyes administration had to set up queues for free users to ensure the sustainability of critical infrastructure.” CNN released its report on May 24; Time report was posted on May 26.
These reports revealed a widely available tool that charges between $30 and $300 per month for two very different services: allowing users to search its database on the one hand, and letting them hide from search results on the other. go.
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