PimEyes facial recognition search engine

PimEyes is a tool that enables users to upload and search for matching images on the web. It uses facial recognition technology to create geometric  'faceprints' of images submitted and found online.

Created in 2017 by Polish software developers Łukasz Kowalczyk and Denis Tatina, PimEyes was commercialised in 2020 and purchased in 2021 by Georgian academic Giorgi Gobronidze. 

The tool started life as a way for stalkers and others to pry into the lives of celebrities, before pivoting to become a product marketed as a way for people to protect themselves against 'scammers, identity thieves, or people who use your image illegally'.

Operator: PimEyes
Developer: PimEyes
Country: Germany; UK; USA; Global
Sector: Technology
Purpose: Identify individuals
Technology: Facial recognition
Issue: Business model; Dual/multi-use; Ethics/values; Privacy; Surveillance; Safety
Transparency: Governance; Black box; Privacy; Marketing

Risks and harms 🛑

PimEyes has been dogged by controversy since its launch for issues ranging from poor ethics, governance and transparency, notably regarding the ease with which it can be misused for harassment, stalking and surveillance, to privacy abuse.

Harassment, stalking, surveillance

Criticism has been levelled at PimEyes for the ease with which it can be used for various forms of unethical and illegal surveillance, harassment and abuse, including stalking, revenge porn, and fraud.

Governance 📔

Transparency 🙈

PimEyes is seen to have been reluctant to discuss its governance, including naming its directors and investors, how it obtains and processes data, and the types of organisations it works with and what they do with the data it supplies. 

The company has not revealed how its algorithms work.

Page info
Type: System
Published: November 2022
Last updated: January 2024