They use images of dead people to train a facial recognition AI

PimEyes, a platform that uses facial recognition AI to allow users to find images of themselves on the web, has been using photographs of deceased people to train its algorithm. As reported WiredCher Scarlett, a software engineer and writer, noticed that the aforementioned website featured images of relatives who had died decades ago and even photographs of her sister, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 30.

Scarlett realized that the images of her deceased relatives that appeared in PimEyes came from, a portal specialized in genetic genealogy and that allows users to publish your biological data for those who wish to obtain information about their ancestors.

After a quick investigation, the software engineer concluded that PimEyes had been collecting images of dead people to feed its database and train its AI, despite Ancestry policy prohibiting “accessing or collecting data in bulk or using automated means,” as well as “scraping data, including photos, from Ancestry sites and services” and “reselling, reproducing or publish any content or information found on Ancestry,” the company states to Wired.

PimEyes responds to using images of deceased people to train its AI

Old photograph of an officer.
Image: Unsplash.

The problem, Scarlett points out, is that there’s no way to make PimEyes go back and stop using the images of a deceased person to train its AI. “My sister is dead. She can’t consent to her or revoke consent for being enrolled in this.”, assures the aforementioned medium. He also stresses that it is a situation in which she “feels incredibly violated”

“No one is uploading photos to Ancestry thinking they are going to be enrolled in a biometric identifier for facial recognition software without their knowledge or consent.”

PimEyes has not been slow to respond to Scarlett’s accusations collected by Wired. Giorgi Gobronidze, head of the platform, says that “PimEyes only tracks websites that officially allow it to be tracked”. “It was very unpleasant news that our trackers somehow broke the rule,” he says. Gobronidze, however, has not given any further explanation on how they collect data to train their AI.

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The facial recognition platform claims to be eliminating any data collected from deceased people. The company has also removed access to Ancestry to make it impossible to collect any more photos.

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