The Verge reports that the Chinese deepfake app Zao, which allows users to swap their face onto famous actors in scenes from TV shows and movies, has gone viral in China. The app was released Friday and has already reached the top of the free app charts on the Chinese iOS App Store.
“The premise of the app is pretty simple: take a selfie and put yourself into your favorite movie or soap opera (chosen from a pre-selected list of clips),” writes Jake Newby from RADII. “Cue users giving themselves starring roles in Leonardo DiCaprio’s filmography or uninvited guest appearances on Game of Thrones.”
But Zao is not without controversy — some are criticizing the app for a purported threat to user privacy.
“We understand the concerns about privacy,” reads a statement released by Zao’s developer, per The Guardian. “We’ve received the feedback, and will fix the issues that we didn’t take into consideration, which will take some time.”
Viral Chinese deepfake app Zao lets people superimpose their faces onto celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and it is terrifyingly convincing https://t.co/YUyYQFMOqA— Business Insider (@businessinsider) September 2, 2019
Ever since the 2016 United States election, which was plagued by online misinformation, worries have been rising that deepfake technology will pose yet another threat to the United States election process. Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said back in June that the company is struggling to combat deepfake videos and said it looks to be “a completely different category” than all misinformation before it.
Per The National Review, the FBI is already expecting an increase in foreign election meddling in 2020. With the release of apps like Zao — software that is easy to obtain and access — the possibility of fake soundbites or clips spreading is already causing many to worry for the misinformation that will be used to tilt the 2020 elections.