ByteDance & TikTok have secretly built a deepfakes maker

<pre><pre>ByteDance & TikTok have secretly built a deepfakes maker

Tick ​​tack The parent company ByteDance has developed a technology that allows you to insert your face into videos in which someone else plays the leading role. TechCrunch learned the ByteDance has developed an unpublished feature with lifelike deepfakes technology called face swap in the app's code. The code in TikTok and its Chinese sister app, Douyin, prompts users to perform a biometric multi-angle scan of their face and then choose from a selection of videos to which they want to add and share their face.

With ByteDance's new face swap feature, users can scan themselves, select a video and have their face placed over a person's body in the clip

The Deepfakes feature, when launched in Douyin and TikTok, could create a controlled environment in which face swapping technology and a limited selection of source videos can be used for fun instead of spreading misinformation. This could also raise awareness of the technology, so more people know that they shouldn't believe everything they see online. However, it is also feared that ByteDance could handle such sensitive biometric data – similar to setting up facial recognition on iPhones.

Several other technology companies have recently tried to consume watered-down versions of deepfakes. With the Morphin app you can overlay actors in GIFs with a computer-aided representation of your face. For years, Snapchat offered a FaceSwap option that could change the face of two people in the picture, or replace one on the camera with one from the camera roll. There are also standalone apps like Face Swap Live that do this. Last month, TechCrunch discovered Snapchat's new cameos to add a real selfie to the video clips provided. However, the results should not be confusingly realistic.

The most problematic was the Chinese deepfakes app Zao, which uses artificial intelligence to blend one person's face with another's body as it moves and synchronizes their expressions. Zao went viral in September, despite privacy and security concerns over the potential misuse of users' facial scans. Zao had previously been blocked by China's WeChat for reporting "security risks". [Correction: While “Zao” is mentioned in the discovered code, it refers to the general concept rather than a partnership between ByteDance and Zao.]

But ByteDance could bring TikTok and Douyin, two of the world's most popular apps with over 1.5 billion downloads, convincingly lifelike deepfakes.

Zao in the Chinese iOS App Store

Zao in the Chinese iOS App Store

Hidden in TikTok and Douyin

TechCrunch received a tip on news from Israeli in-app research startup The company discovered code for the deepfakes feature in the latest version of the Android apps from TikTok and Douyin. was able to activate the code in Douyin to generate screenshots of the feature, although it is not currently available to the public.

First, users scan their face in TikTok. This also serves as an identity check to ensure that you are only submitting your own face so that you cannot make unrestricted deepfakes from other people using an existing photo or a single shot of their face. By asking you to blink, nod, and open and close your mouth while focused and lit, Douyin can ensure that you are a living person and create a manipulable scan of your face that will stretch and move can to express different emotions or fill different scenes.

You can then choose from the videos that ByteDance claims to use and replace the face of the one in the clip with your own. You can then share or download the deepfake video, even though it contains an overlaid watermark that the company claims helps to mark the content as not genuine. I have had confidential access to Watchful-made videos with this feature, and swapping faces is fairly seamless. The movement tracking, expressions and color fades all look very convincing.

Watchful also discovered unpublished updates to TikTok and Douyin's terms of use regarding privacy and the use of the deepfakes feature. In the U.S. version of TikTok's Android app, the function and some of its terms of use are explained in English code:

Your face pattern is used for this function. For more information, see the Drama Face Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, Make sure you have read and agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy before proceeding. 1. To make this feature safe for everyone, A real identity check is required to ensure that users use this feature with their own faces. For this reason, Uploaded photos cannot be used; Second Your face pattern will only be used to create facial changes videos This is only visible to you before you post it. To better protect your personal information, an identity check is required if you use this function later. Third This function complies with the regulations for the protection of personal internet information for minors. Minor users cannot access this feature, 4. All video elements related to this function are provided by Douyin has acquired the copyrights,

ZHEJIANG, CHINA – OCTOBER 18, 2019 Two U.S. senators sent a letter to U.S. intelligence saying that TikTok could pose a threat to U.S. national security and should be investigated. Visitors visit the booth of Douyin (Tiktok) at Smart Expo 2019 in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang Province, October 18, 2019 .– PHOTO BY Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty Images.

A longer terms of use and privacy policy has also been found in Chinese in Douyin. Some highlights from the text that have been translated into English are:

  • “The“ face change effect ”achieved with this function is a fictitious image that is created by overlaying our photos on the basis of your photos. To show that the original work has been changed and that the video created with this function is not real video, we mark the video created with this function. Do not delete the marking in any way. "

  • “The information collected during the above recognition process and created with your photos of face change videos is only used for live detection and for matching during the face change. It is not used for any other purpose. , , Matches will be deleted immediately and your facial features will not be saved. "

  • “If you use this feature, you can only use the materials we provide. You cannot upload the materials yourself. The materials we provide have been approved by the copyright holder. "

  • "In accordance with the data protection regulations for the Internet for children" In order to protect the personal data of children / adolescents, this function restricts the use of minors. "

We contacted TikTok and Douyin for a comment on the deepfake feature, when it might launch, how privacy is protected by biometric scans, and how to set the age limit. However, TikTok declined to answer these questions. Instead, a spokesman insisted that “after consulting the teams, I can confirm that this is definitely not a feature in TikTok and we do not intend to implement it. I think what you might see is something planned for Douyin – your email contains screenshots taken from Douyin and a privacy policy that mentions Douyin. That means we're not working on Douyin here at TikTok. "They later informed TechCrunch that" the inactive code fragments are removed to avoid confusion, "which implicitly confirms that swap code was found in TikTok.

A Douyin spokesman said to TechCrunch, "Douyin complies with the laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which it operates, in China." They denied that Face Swap's terms of use appear in TikTok, although TechCrunch does code the app checked the terms of use and contains the functionality of the function.

This is suspicious and does not explain why TikTok displays code for the deepfakes function and special service conditions in English for the function, and not just in Douyin, where the app can already be activated and longer service conditions have been identified. TikTok's US company previously denied compliance with Chinese government censorship applications, contrary to sources who told the Washington Post that TikTok had censored political and sexual content at China's behest.

Consume deepfakes

It is possible that the deepfakes face swap feature will never be officially launched in China or the United States. However, it is fully functional, even if it has not yet been released, and shows that ByteDance is ready to use the controversial technology, although it is known for misinformation and non-consensual pornography. At least this limits the use of the function by minors, so that you can only exchange information and users cannot upload their own source videos. This avoids being used to create dangerous misinformation videos like the slowed one that makes house spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi look drunk, or clips of people saying things as if they were President Trump.

"It's very rare for a large social networking app to offer a new, advanced feature for users older than 18 years," co-founder and CEO Itay Kahana told TechCrunch. "These deepfake apps seem superficially funny, but they shouldn't be allowed to become Trojans that compromise IP rights and personal data, especially personal data from minors who have previously been predominantly TikTok users."

TikTok has already been banned by the U.S. Navy and ByteDance's acquisition and merger of with TikTok is currently under investigation by the United States Foreign Investment Committee. Deepfake fears could further tighten control.

With the right security measures in place, however, a new era of user-generated content could be introduced, in which the author is always the focus of the action. All of this is part of a new trend in personalized media that could be big in 2020. Social media have evolved from selfies to Bitmoji to Animoji to cameos and now to consumed deepfakes. If there are an infinite number of apps, videos, and notifications that distract us, the best way to get our attention is to make us a star.