Imagine strolling down a busy city street and snapping a photo of a stranger then uploading it into a search engine that almost instantaneously helps you identify the person.

This isn’t a hypothetical. It’s possible now, thanks to a website called PimEyes, considered one of the most powerful publicly available facial recognition tools online.

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    Imagine strolling down a busy city street and snapping a photo of a stranger then uploading it into a search engine that almost instantaneously helps you identify the person.

    A basic version of PimEyes is free for anyone to use, but the company offers advanced features, like alerts on images that users may be interested in when a new photo appears online, for a monthly subscription fee.

    Gobronidze said PimEyes now blocks access in 27 countries, including Iran, China and Russia, over fears government authorities could use the service to target protesters and dissidents.

    “These benefits are being used as a pretext for government and industry simply to expand their power and profits, without any meaningful gains any way,” said Woodrow Hartzog, a Boston University School of Law professor who specializes in facial recognition technology.

    And while Big Tech companies have been holding back, smaller startups pushing the technology are gaining momentum like PimEyes, and another called Clearview AI, which provides AI-powered face search engines to law enforcement.

    Silicon Valley giants had developed the powerful chatbots for years in labs, but kept them a secret until a smaller startup, OpenAI, made ChatGPT available to the public.


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