Lensa AI Magic Avatars

Released: November 2022
Occurred: December 2022

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Photo editing app Lensa AI's Magic Avatars use AI to transform selfies into anime, painting, or drawing versions of oneself in the style of popular artists. The service is proving highly popular, with Lensa quickly shooting to the top of Apple's charts for photo and video apps.

Reaction

Lensa's Magic Avatars app may be proving successful but is also causing controversy due to its lack of safety guardrails, privacy concerns about how user data is being used, the alleged re-use and manipulation of artists' work without their knowledge or permission, and fears for the future of digital artists' jobs.


  • Copyright: Concerns exist about the extent to which Lensa offers protection for people whose art has been used to train its model. While Prisma states in its privacy policy that it will not use user photos for any reason other than to apply its filters without user consent, the company's small print appears to allow it to 'distribute' and 'use' stored images 'without any additional compensation' to the user, and that by uploading 'user content' publicly, everyone must agree to its license, which seems to give the app permission to use user photos.

  • Privacy: Lensa has raised concerns about people using others' photos inappropriately, including generating nudes of celebrities and other people they have photos of without their consent. Questions have also been asked about how long Lensa keeps images uploaded to its servers, and how users can opt-out of training datasets such as LAION - on which Stable Diffusion, which powers Lensa - is based.

  • Safety: Lensa’s terms of service oblige users to submit only appropriate content, including 'no nudes'. However, journalists at WIRED, Technology Review, TechCrunch and Insider recorded how they were easily able to generate near-realistic adolescent and sexualised images, nude and non-consensual pornography, and even 'the stuff of nightmares'. Prisma Labs CEO Andrey Usoltsev told TechCrunch that such behaviour 'can only happen if the AI is intentionally provoked' into creating unsafe content and that this is a breach of its terms of use.

  • Employment: Like other AI generators, Lensa Magic Avatars has led artists, illustrators and others to wonder what the future holds in store for their jobs when works in their styles can be automatically be generated at very little cost and without their explicit permission, and to encourage people not to use the app.

Transparency

Like many similar services, information about Magic Avatars privacy and copyright obligations are buried in Prisma Labs terms, which appear ambiguous.

Operator: Prisma Labs
Developer:
Prisma Labs

Country: USA; Global

Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts

Purpose: Create avatars

Technology: Neural network
Issue: Copyright; Privacy; Safety; Employment - jobs

Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Page info
Published: December 2022
Last updated: January 2023