Saving Face? Check your Avatar Terms & Conditions

The Lensa AI photo and video editing app from Prisma Labs has been downloaded by millions of users globally to produce ‘Magic Avatars’. 

Magic Avatars are highly detailed, artisan self-portraits of individuals created using artificial intelligence. By uploading 10 to 20 selfies to the platform, the app generates for the user a range of unique portraits based on their image. Most users then go on to use these generated images as their identifying image on some form of social media.

While users are clearly taking delight in these unique self-portraits, most appear to be oblivious to what else Prisma Labs may have rights to (as set out in the platform terms and conditions and privacy policy). The company is using consumer input to help train their neural network and perhaps more concerningly, also obtaining a non-exclusive, irrevocable licence to user content.

1 .   What are Neural Networks and how do they train?

A neural network is a computer system that is modelled after the workings of the human brain. Neural networks are composed of a series of interconnected processing nodes, or neurons, which can learn to recognize patterns of input. This learning process is similar to how humans learn by experience. When a neural network is presented with an input pattern, it will modify the weights of the connections between the neurons in order to better recognize that pattern in the future. Over time, the neural network will become increasingly proficient at recognizing similar patterns. Neural networks are commonly used for tasks such as image recognition and handwriting recognition.

In the case of Lensa, for a user to be able to access certain functions, the company will process the individual’s facial images, including information about that user’s faces’ position, it’s orientation and the topology on the images. Not unlike rights obtained by other social media companies, by using the Magic Avatars feature of the Lensa app, users explicitly consent to Prisma using their photos to teach its neural network algorithms.

2.    Collection of User Content

Lensa collects and stores what it calls “Face Data” for its ‘online processing function’ which is not clearly defined. Lensa also shares and transfers Face Data off a user’s devices to its cloud providers (Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services) for the same purpose. A condition that appears to be in a user’s favour is that when using the viral Magic Avatars features, the photos are automatically deleted after the AI results are generated.

This does not, however, deal with any composite Face Data, which is not given any further definition. Prisma states it will not use the data for anything other than stylized filters (unless given permission), and states it will not use the Face Data to identify individual users, for authentication, advertising, or marketing purposes or to deal with the information with any third parties.

Beyond this, the Company’s privacy policy appears to be inconsistent with its terms and conditions. The terms and conditions allow for all rights and ownership in respect of uploading and storing photos to be left with the uploader, while in the privacy policy, Prisma deploys a ‘Company License’ which is permitted by using the services, and reads as follows:

Solely for the purposes of operating or improving Lensa, you grant us a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, distribute, create derivative works of your User Content, without any additional compensation to you and always subject to your additional explicit consent for such use where required by applicable law and as stated in our Privacy Policy (the “Company License”).

The Company Licence is stated to be for the limited purpose of operating Lensa and improving existing and new products, including training Lensa’s AI from the Magic Avatars feature of the application.

Should you post your newly generated Magic Avatar online, however (for example, to show the power of AI on your LinkedIn), you give Lensa full rights to a worldwide, non-exclusive licence to use the end-product or output of your avatar for any and all marketing purposes.

3.    Why should users care?

Facial data can be used to create a detailed 3D model of a user’s face. That user will not retain exclusive control over these images or potentially a deep fake active 3D model of an avatar that bears the user’s likeness. This goes to the heart of risk around digital identity and digital security.