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The Facial Recognition Software That Could End Revenge Porn

Nearly one-third of all Americans send sexy photos and/or videos of themselves online. Though most of them trust the people they’re sending nudes to, not all recipients deserve that trust. And even when they do, some of them get hacked. In fact, more than 10 million people in the U.S. alone have been blackmailed over their nudes, in some form or fashion. And those are just the people who know their private content has gone public; many others have no idea that naked imagery of them is floating around the internet.

To help combat this, Lionel Hagege, a Parisian advertising executive, has launched FacePinPoint, the first “reputation-management” website that utilizes facial recognition software to combat revenge porn. It’s similar in concept to LifeLock, except that FacePinPoint focuses on sexual content by finding matches of its users’ faces on revenge porn sites for a monthly fee.

I recently spoke to Hagege about the fatherly inspiration that got him into this new endeavor, the mechanics of how his service works and the laws he hopes to change with it.

How do you go from advertising to building technology meant to combat revenge porn?
In 2015, I was watching the news, and I got really shocked. This young lady committed suicide because an intimate video in which she was featured was shared online. I’m the father of two daughters, both under 16 years old, and I was thinking, One day, is one of them going to exchange that kind of content? Will I have to give her my shoulder to cry on because the intimate content that was meant to be seen only by a lover is going to be seen everywhere online? As a father, how can I protect her? As a member of society, how can I protect anyone?

So how does FacePinPoint provide that kind of protection?
There are three steps for how you get your privacy back. Step 1 is Facial recognition. You upload a photo of your face, and we scan it and make biometrics of it. Step 2 is matching your face across the our database [of revenge porn sites]. Next, if there’s a match, you can see where your content is located online. Step 3 is when we discover your content, you have the choice to say, “Okay, I want to take that down.” You can do it by yourself. But if you don’t know how to make a DMCA takedown notice, or you prefer us to make it, you just have to click on one button and we’ll do it for you. If they don’t remove it, we’re working with an international network of lawyers, who our users can utilize to prosecute the website.

What’s FacePinPoint’s demo?
It’s for anyone. Anyone could be exposed online at some point in their life, and we want to shield them. Let’s say you’re not a victim yet, which I hope is the case. You just want to check, kind of like insurance, once a month. You can do that, too.

Is being a victim of revenge porn something the average person should be worried about?
It could happen to anyone. This is what happened to Miss Teen USA 2013: Someone was able to remotely open her webcam and record her for a year. After that year, he started to blackmail her. He said, “The quality of the video isn’t good enough. If I don’t [get] more, I’m going to exchange it over social media.” Fortunately, she was strong. She began talking with the cops and the FBI. They did a great job, and they stopped the guy. But he’d already hacked between 100 and 150 other people. This happens every day. As soon as you exchange [intimate] content, you lose control of it.

That’s a sobering thought that I’m not sure is always top-of-mind in the heat of the moment.
I don’t want to scare people. But that’s technology. This is how things are. Let me share some numbers with you. We know that in the U.S. 110 million people exchange private content. Ninety percent trust the people they send the content to. But the people who get the content usually store it. So even if they’re not exchanging it, that doesn’t mean that someone can’t hack their phone, computer or cloud storage. Then there are hidden cams that can easily be installed anywhere. It is scary.

Because people are often ashamed when they’re victimized by revenge porn, it goes underreported, which may be one reason there’s no federal law against it yet.
It’s so easy to blame. Like, “She should be more careful. She should never have sent a photo to that guy!” But if you do send it, there’s nothing wrong with that. Nobody should be ashamed about it. What’s wrong is what is done with the content.

I’m not judging anyone. I believe that you can do whatever you want with your body, within legal limits. At FacePinPoint, we say, “What’s private should remain private.” We’re not blaming. We’re here to shield you.

Right now, it’s only set up to find nude photos online — but what about videos?
We’re starting with photos, but we’re going to release the video feature in three months. Also, we’re going to build our own facial-recognition 3D model in less than a year.

Then what?
Ideally, change the laws, and make a better world. That’s where we want to be. So let’s fight for it.