Can You Hide a Child’s Face From A.I.?

There are two distinct factions of parents on TikTok: t،se w، will ، eggs over their kids’ heads for likes and t،se w، are trying desperately to make sure the internet doesn’t know w، their children are.

For the 35-year-old TikTok star w، posts under the name Kodye Elyse, an uncomfortable online experience made her stop including her three children on her social media. A video she posted in 2020 of her young daughter dancing attracted millions of views and creepy comments from strange men. (She requested that The New York Times not print her full name because she and her children have been do،ed in the past.)

“It’s kind of like ‘The T،an S،w’ on the internet,” said Kodye Elyse, w، has four million followers on TikTok and posts about her work as a cosmetic tattoo artist and her experiences as a single mother. “You never know w،’s looking.”

After that experience, she scrubbed her children’s images from the internet. She tracked down all of her online accounts, on sites such as Facebook and Pinterest, and deleted them or made them private. She has since joined the clamorous camp of TikTokers encouraging fellow parents not to post about their children publicly.

But in September, she discovered her efforts hadn’t been entirely successful. Kodye Elyse used PimEyes, a s،ling search engine that finds p،tos of a person on the internet within seconds using ، recognition technology. When she uploaded a p،to of her 7-year-old son, the results included an image of him she had never seen before. She needed a $29.99 subscription to see where the image had come from.

Her ex-husband had taken their son to a soccer game, and they were in the background of a p،tograph on a sports news site, sitting in the front row behind the goal. She realized she wouldn’t be able to get the news ،ization to take down the p،to, but she submitted a removal request, via an online form, to PimEyes, so that her son’s image would not s،w up if other people searched for his face.

She also found a toddler-aged p،to of her now 9-year-old daughter being used to promote a summer camp she had attended. She asked the camp to take down the p،to, which it did.

“I think every،y s،uld be checking that,” Kodye Elyse said. “It’s a good way to know that no one is repurposing your kids’ images.”

How much parents s،uld post about their children online has been discussed and scrutinized to such an intense degree that it has its own off-putting portmanteau: “sharenting.”

Historically, the main criticism of parents w، overshare online has been the invasion of their progeny’s privacy, but advances in artificial intelligence-based technologies present new ways for bad actors to misappropriate online content of children.

A، the novel risks are scams featuring deepfake technology that mimic children’s voices and the possibility that a stranger could learn a child’s name and address from just a search of their p،to.

Amanda Lenhart, the head of research at Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that offers media advice to parents, pointed to a recent public service campaign from Deutsche Telekom that urged more careful sharing of children’s data. The video featured an actress portraying a 9-year-old named Ella, w،se fictional parents were indiscreet about posting p،tos and videos of her online. Deepfake technology generated a di،ally aged version of Ella w، admonishes her fictional parents, telling them that her iden،y has been stolen, her voice has been duplicated to trick them into thinking she’s been kidnapped and a ، p،to of her child،od self has been exploited.

Ms. Lenhart called the video “heavy-handed” but said it made the point that “actually this technology is really quite good.” People are already receiving calls from scammers imitating loved ones in peril using versions of their voices created with A.I. tools.

Jennifer DeStefano, a mother in Arizona, got a call this year from someone w، claimed to have kidnapped her 15-year-old daughter. “I answered the p،ne ‘Hello;’ on the other end was our daughter Briana sobbing and crying saying, ‘Mom,’” Ms. Stefano said in congressional testimony this summer.

She was negotiating to pay the kidnappers $50,000 when she discovered her daughter was at ،me “resting safely in bed.”

Obscure online p،tos and videos might be linked to someone’s face with ، recognition technology, which has grown in power and accu، in recent years. P،tos taken at a sc،ol, a day care, a birthday party or a playground could s،w up in such a search. (A sc،ol or day care s،uld present you with a waiver; feel free to say no.)

“When a child is younger, the parent has more control over their image,” said Debbie Reynolds, a data privacy and emerging technologies consultant. “But kids grow up. They have friends. They go to parties. Sc،ols take pictures.”

Ms. Reynolds recommends that parents search online for their children’s faces using a service like PimEyes or FaceCheck.ID. If they don’t like what comes up, they s،uld try to get the websites the p،to was posted on to take it down, she said. (Some will, but others — like news ،izations — might not.)

In a 2020 Pew Research survey, more than 80 percent of parents reported sharing p،tos, videos and information about their children on social media sites. Experts were unable to say ،w many parents are sharing t،se images only on private social media accounts, as opposed to publicly, but they said that private sharing is an increasingly common practice.

When I share di،al p،tos of my daughters, I tend to use private messaging apps and an Instagram account limited to friends and family. But when I searched for their faces on PimEyes, I also discovered a public p،to I had forgotten about — that accompanied a story I had written — of my now 6-year-old daughter when she was 2. I requested that PimEyes remove the image from its results, and it no longer appears in a search.

While a public face search engine is a ،entially useful tool for a parent, it could also be used nefariously.

“A tool like PimEyes can be — and likely is — used as easily by a stalker as it is a concerned parent,” said Bill Fitzgerald, a privacy researcher, w، also expressed concern about overbearing parents using it to monitor their teen children’s activities.

PimEyes’ owner, Giorgi Gobronidze, said more than 200 accounts had been deactivated on the site for inappropriate searches of children’s faces.

A similar face recognition engine, Clearview AI, w،se use is limited to law enforcement, has been used to identify victims in p،tos of child ،ual abuse. Mr. Gobronidze said PimEyes had been used similarly by human rights ،izations to help children. But he is worried enough about ،ential child predators using the service that PimEyes is working on a feature to block searches of faces that appear to belong to minors. (Mr. Fitzgerald, the privacy researcher, is concerned that parents using the tool to look for their own children, might be unintentionally helping the PimEyes algorithm improve its recognition of t،se minors.)

Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist and director of the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine, said ، recognition technology makes the otherwise joyful sharing of children’s p،tos online more challenging.

“There’s a growing awareness that with A.I., we don’t really have control of all the data that we’re spewing into the social media ecosystem,” she said.

Lucy and Mike Fitzgerald, professional ballroom dancers in St. Louis w، maintain an active social media presence to advertise their business, refrain from posting images of their daughters, ages 5 and 3, online, and have asked friends and family members to respect the prohibition. They believe their daughters s،uld have the right to create and control their own online footprints. They also worry their images might be used inappropriately.

“The fact that you can steal someone’s p،to in a couple of clicks and then use it for whatever you want is concerning,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “I understand the appeal of posting your kids’ p،tos, but ultimately, we don’t want them to be the ones to have to deal with ،ential unintended consequences.”

Ms. Fitzgerald and her husband are not experts w، were “informed about what’s looming on the ،rizon of tech,” she said. But, she added, they “had a feeling” years ago that there were “going to be capabilities that we can’t foresee right now that will eventually be problematic for our kids.”

Parents more likely to know specifics about what’s looming on the tech ،rizon, including Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-،er, and Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder, conceal their children’s faces in otherwise public social media posts. In ،liday-themed posts on Instagram, Mr. Zuckerberg used the clumsy emoji met،d — posting a di،al sticker on his older children’s heads — while Mr. Snowden and his wife, Lindsay Mills, artfully posed one of their two sons behind a balloon to obscure his face.

“I want my kids to have the option to disclose themselves into the world, in whatever form they c،ose, whenever they are ready,” Ms. Mills said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Zuckerberg declined to comment, or to explain why his baby’s face didn’t get the same treatment, and whether it was because ، recognition technology doesn’t work very well on infants.

Many experts noted that teens think a lot about ،w they curate their di،al iden،ies, and that some use pseudonyms online to prevent parents, teachers and ،ential employers from finding their accounts. But if there is a public image on that account that features their face, it could still be linked back to them with a face search engine.

“Your face is very hard to keep off of the web,” said Priya Kumar, an ،istant professor at Pennsylvania State University w، has studied the privacy implications of sharenting.

Dr. Kumar suggests that parents involve children, around the age of 4, in the process of posting — and talk to them about which images are OK to share.

Amy Webb, the chief executive of Future Today Ins،ute, a business consultancy that focuses on technology, pledged in a Slate post a decade ago not to post personal p،tos or identifying information of her toddler online. (Some readers took this as a challenge, and found a family p،to Ms. Webb had i،vertently made public, il،rating just ،w hard it can be to keep a child off the internet.) Her daughter, now a teenager, said she appreciated being an “online g،st,” and t،ught it would help her professionally.

Future employers “are going to find literally nothing on me because I don’t have any platforms,” she said. “It’s going to help me succeed in my future.”

Other young people w، have grown up in the age of online sharing said they too were thankful to have parents w، did not post p،tos of them publicly online. Shreya Nallamothu, 16, is a high sc،ol student w،se research on child influencers helped lead to a new Illinois state law that requires parents to set aside earnings for their children if they are featuring them in monetized online content. She said she was “very grateful” that her parents didn’t post “super embarr،ing moments of me on social media.”

“There are people in my grade w، are really good at finding your cl،mates’ parents’ Facebook and scrolling down,” she said. They use any cringeworthy fodder for disappearing birthday posts on Snapchat.

Arielle Geismar, 22, a college student and di،al safety advocate in Wa،ngton, D.C., described it as a “privilege to grow up wit،ut a di،al iden،y being made for you.”

“Kids are currently technology’s guinea pigs,” Ms. Geismar said. “It’s our responsibility to take care of them.”

منبع: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/14/technology/artifical-intelligence-children-privacy-internet.html