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PimEyes’s Facial Recognition Site is Disturbingly Impressive

This software is like something out of a sci-fi film!

Credit: PimEyes

Imagine uploading an image of someone and getting every picture they have ever posted in return. Although this sounds like the plot of a dark web horror film, it is an actual website. PimEyes is a facial recognition site that makes it easy to find pictures of people online. Whilst facial recognition software is nothing new, PimEyes is astoundingly good at correctly identifying people. It may have been created with good intentions, but many organizations fear it is the perfect tool for stalkers.

PimEyes has largely gone unnoticed despite the recent frenzy surrounding AI and its potential. It was created in 2017 and is now one of the most accurate facial recognition tools. All you need to do is upload an image or two of a face, and within seconds, the results will return. If you’re willing to pay a subscription fee, you can also get links to all the images and the websites they appear on. The accuracy of the software was put to the test by journalists at the New York Times. A dozen journalists uploaded images of themselves to test out the tool. Every search returned many images, with only a few being incorrect matches. They also found that years-old pictures, images of the person wearing sunglasses or face masks, and different facial hair or hairstyles didn’t hinder PimEye’s ability to find other pictures of them on the internet.

Credit: PimEyes

How does facial recognition AI work?

PimEyes uses a combination of AI and reverse image processing. On the most basic level, AI facial recognition works like this: the AI will identify and measure facial features in an image and turn this information into numerical expressions (biometric data). These numerical expressions are then used to reverse image search. This means the expressions are compared with those of other images online, and those that match will be gathered. The retrieved matching images will be shown from the most similar to the least similar. Although PimEyes is one of the most accurate facial recognition sites, it still makes mistakes. It will return images of other people with similar features to whoever uploaded their picture.

PimEyes is a severe threat to online anonymity

The creators of PimEyes have stated that they made the software for people to find out if their images were being shared without their consent. They also said it could be used to track down the use of deep fake technology. This aim is consistent with what the site offers, as paid members can see which websites their images are on and can work to get them taken down. Obviously, like most things online, people don’t use sites and apps as intended.

Credit: Prostock – Studio / Shutterstock

Privacy group Big Brother Watch has pointed out how PimEyes could be abused. It can easily be used to find out sensitive information about someone. A single image could bring back other images on photo-sharing sites, in news articles, and on work websites. By piecing together information associated with these images, anyone could work out a person’s place of work or where they live.

Another concerning way PimEyes could be used for nefarious purposes was uncovered by the New York Times. While testing the software’s accuracy, they noticed that all the female journalists had images from pornography sites returned. Anyone with a semi-public appearance is at risk of using their images to find porn containing someone who looks like them. The site could also discover someone’s identity if they do not use their real name online.

Is facial recognition useful or dangerous?

Despite the concerns raised by Big Brother Watch and the New York Times, PimEyes states that it has high levels of data security in place. Any suspicious behavior, such as a male user repeatedly looking for female individuals, will be highlighted, and action will be taken. Even with data security and safeguards, this won’t stop people from misusing PimEyes. Facial recognition technology is fraught with ethical issues, especially regarding storing peoples’ biometric data. Whilst PimEyes can be used to help people get unwanted images taken down or see if people have been using their images, it is also open to abuse, like any software.

Written By

Postgraduate student studying journalism at Edinburgh Napier University. Fandom enthusiast and ex-Wattpad writer.

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