‘Potential to be exploited’: NBI warns public vs. AI-powered photo editing app

October 26, 2023 - 6:06 PM
FILE PHOTO: AI (Artificial Intelligence) letters and robot hand miniature in this illustration taken, June 23, 2023. (Reuters/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo)

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) warned the public about the dangers of photo editing applications using the power of artificial intelligence.

Through its Western Visayas division, NBI said that an app generating enhanced versions of self-portraits might seem “harmless and entertaining,” but it has a “potential to be maliciously exploited.”

“This app does not only [compile] the data submitted by its users but also creates a digital persona that replicates the way a real individual speaks and moves,” NBI said.

“While it may appear to be harmless and amusing, this AI-driven technology has the potential to be maliciously exploited,” it added.

While no specific app was mentioned, an AI-powered app called Epik took the internet by storm through the “Yearbook Challenge.” Here, pictures from different individuals were transformed into alternate versions of yearbook portraits.

Many celebrities got hooked by it and uploaded photos of their AI-generated younger selves on social media.

Local personalities who joined this challenge include Michael V, Dingdong Dantes, Megan Young, Yassi Pressman, and Sarah Lahbati.

According to the NBI, however, the submitted pictures “can be used to craft fake profiles leading to incidents of identity theft, data breaching, sexual exploitation, phishing attacks, ransomware attacks, and other various malicious activities.”

The bureau noted that it has recently received reports of AI-powered photo editing apps being used for identity theft and other scams.

NBI then asked for the public’s cooperation in making sure personal data remains “safe.”

“Let us all work together to protect our personal information and stay safe in the digital world,” it said.

Before this, the National Privacy Commission (NPC) advised the public to be cautious in joining the yearbook trend, citing “privacy implications.”

Roren Marie M. Chin, chief of the NPC’s Public Information and Assistance Division, said that the commission will continue to “observe and assess” this challenge in terms of compliance with the Data Privacy Act.

“While the AI yearbook trend itself may seem harmless, it is essential for individuals using the application to be cautious about the privacy implications it may pose,” Chin was quoted in a report as saying.

“We will continue to observe and assess this trend to ensure that personal data is being handled in compliance with the (Data Privacy Act) and our issuances,” she also said.

The Epik app is promoted as an “all-in-one photo editing app” that was developed by Snow Corporation.

In its description for Google Play, the platform’s claim to fame are:

  • Improving photos’ clarity and resolution
  • Correcting blemishes via AI technology
  • Separating figures, objects, and animals in photos