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Security & privacy

Use this free tool to find all the pictures of you lurking on the web

This just in: You don’t own your face. Sure, technically, no one can copyright your face. But you can’t stop shady companies from selling your features for identification purposes. 

As creepy as it sounds, companies can make millions of bucks by throwing you into their enormous facial recognition databases. Just look at Clearview AI, which can identify people based on a single selfie. Now worth $109 million, the company works with government agencies as well as businesses.

Tap or click here to find out how this app can find your address with just a photo of your face. When it comes to Clearview AI, there’s one silver lining: It’s not public, which means you don’t have to worry about every Tom, Dick or Harry stalking you throughout the internet. Unfortunately, another tool has hit the scene, and it’s 100% free.

Say hello to PimEyes — and kiss your privacy goodbye 

This 2017 Polish search engine has a massive stockpile of 900 million faces. It’s designed to help you see wherever you’re posted on the internet (or so it claims).

If you’ve ever published your photos on the internet, you could already be part of its gargantuan database. PimEyes analyzes faces across the internet and spots individual characteristics. Then it stores your biometric data, comparing your face to similar-looking people.

Head to PimEyes.com, and you’ll see a toolbar where you can upload your photos or take a selfie through your gadget’s camera. Start searching by your photo and you’ll see a plethora of matches, including old, compromising pictures you may have forgotten about.

Off the bat, it depicts itself as a self-help tool. “Upload your photo and find where images with your face appear online,” it says. 

According to PimEyes, any images you send are temporarily saved for 48 hours and it doesn’t store private user data. That seems reassuring at first. You might also lower your guard when you see the website claim it’s designed to help people track down photos of themselves.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to ensure people only use it to look up their own faces. You can look up anyone through this free software. On the flip side, that means anyone can look you up: ex-friends, former flames or internet trolls who want to dox you through a reverse image search.

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While you’re browsing through PimEyes, you may find your face on strange websites with unrecognizable URLs. Click on them, and PimEyes will try to charge you for opening the results … and access to these URLs is not cheap.

As Kim always says: There’s no such thing as a free lunch

Sure, PimEyes is a free website — but every site wants to make money. This search engine earns cash by making you pay to find out which websites your photos are on.

For example, if you’re browsing through the site and see a photo of yourself labeled “potentially explicit content,” you might start freaking out. Since revenge porn is such an enormous issue, many users may feel shocked or scared when they find these results on PimEyes.

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But if you want to actually open the link to figure out what’s going on, you have to pay up first. You click on the suspicious image, and a popup like this fills your screen:

So, why does PimEyes lock certain results? The website claims it’s because user anonymity is a top priority. “Instead of selling their data, we charge them for the possibility to unlock the results containing their faces,” it says.

If you’re like one unfortunate Reddit user who found a photo they took as a minor on a porn site, you might be inspired to pay for access ASAP. In a snap of your fingers, you’re down $30.

PimEyes: a “broad attack on anonymity”

A report by Netzpolitik says this site could be illegal. Just like Clearview AI, PimEyes lets strangers use biometric searches to track down your identity. Unlike Clearview AI, though, it’s available for everyone — not just big businesses and government agencies.

That means a creepy stranger could use a single snapshot to identify you through PimEyes. They could find out your name, job, address and more. Imagine the privacy and surveillance implications.

Netzpolitik reporters Daniel Laufer and Sebastian Meineck say PimEyes has incredible potential for abuse:

Our investigation shows: PimEyes is a broad attack on anonymity and it is possibly illegal. A snapshot may be enough to identify a stranger using PimEyes. The search engine does not directly provide the name of a person you are looking for. It does however find matching faces, and in many cases the shown websites can be used to find out names, professions and much more.

Daniel Laufer and Sebastian Meineck, “A Polish company is abolishing our anonymity

They discuss some scary consequences we may encounter, thanks to this database. “PimEyes weaponizes digital violence,” Laufer and Meineck said.

That’s why we recommend you make your social media accounts private. You never know who’s browsing through your feed, saving your photos and analyzing them with nefarious intentions. When it comes to your digital life, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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