PimEyes, a well-known public face search engine, has recently announced its decision to block searches of children’s faces. This move comes as part of its “no harm policy,” in response to concerns that the service could be misused by individuals with harmful intentions. The company’s CEO, Giorgi Gobronidze, stated that they’ve implemented technical measures to prevent such searches. PimEyes, which houses a database of nearly three billion faces and facilitates about 118,000 searches daily, was initially designed to allow users to search for their own faces online, but lacked measures to ensure this restriction.
Parents have been known to use PimEyes to locate unknown online photos of their children. However, the potential for misuse by strangers was significant, leading to the ban. Prior to this, PimEyes had already deactivated more than 200 accounts for inappropriate searches involving children. Despite the ban, PimEyes will still permit searches related to minors by human rights organizations working on children’s rights issues.
The recent decision to block searches of children’s faces has been in the works since 2021, with full implementation taking place this month. The system isn’t foolproof, though, as it relies on age detection AI to identify photos of minors. This technology works well for children under 14, but struggles with accuracy for teenagers. The system may also struggle to identify children if they are not photographed from certain angles.
The larger issue at hand, according to Daniel Solove, a law professor specializing in privacy, is the existence of internet face search engines that collect and make searchable people’s faces without their consent. This, he says, is a “massive privacy violation on a mammoth scale.” Another public face search engine, FaceCheck.Id, currently has no technical restrictions on searches of children’s faces and has not responded to requests for comment.