ZAO app face swapping

Occurred: September 2019

Can you improve this page?
Share your insights with us

An app that enables users to superimpose a single image of their face onto videos of celebrities such as Leonardo di Caprio and Marilyn Monroe, ZAO quickly surged in popularity and was the most downloaded free app in China’s iOS App Store immediately after its launch in September 2019.

But with users and rights advocates concerned about privacy, copyright, and security, it also proved highly controversial.

One section of the app's user agreement stated that users uploading their images to ZAO gave it 'free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable, and relicenseable' rights over the intellectual property rights to their faces, and permitted ZAO to share their images with whomever they chose and use their images for marketing purposes.

ZAO lists Changsha Shenduronghe Network Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of Momo that owns a live-streaming and dating service, as its developer. Momo apologised for the terms of the agreement and revised it to say that it would not 'excessively collect user information.'

Despite Momo's assurances, the ease with which identities could be swapped led platforms such as China's Weixin/WeChat to ban users from uploading ZAO-made videos to them on the basis that they were seen as a potential security risk.

Operator: Momo; Apple
Developer: Momo
Country: China
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Swap faces
Technology: Deepfake - image
Issue: Privacy; Copyright; Security
Transparency: Governance; Privacy

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: March 2023