Launched in February by Russian developer Trinity Digital, FindFace is one part South Park’s TrollTrace, one part restraining order, and a heaping pinch of voyeurism. As the name suggests, it allows you to find the Vkontakte (the biggest rival to Facebook in Russia, often called simply VK) profile of anyone, simply by uploading a photograph of them.
The app combines facial recognition software with neural networks, and according to VentureBeat, was intended by the developers to be a tool to make it easier to find friends. The problem is, that’s not how it’s being used.
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Predictably, the worst denizens of the Russian Internet are using this to stalk sex workers and adult actresses. Per AdVox:
On April 9, users of the Russian imageboard “Dvach” (2chan) launched a campaign to deanonymize actresses who appear in pornography. After identifying these women with FindFace, Dvach users shared archived copies of their Vkontakte pages, and spammed the women’s families and friends with messages informing them about the discovery. The effort also targeted women registered on the website “Intimcity,” which markets prostitution services.
This campaign was organized from a Vkontakte group that has since been banned, due to it breaching the site’s policies on harassment.
Speaking to Tjournal, a FindFace representative said that while they’ve received dozens of complaints about the service, there’s no technical way to stop people using the service in this manner.
Tjournal noted that FindFace has been used for more ethical means. It was instrumental in identifying two men who set fire to a St Peterberg building last week. But as noted by Russian artist Egor Tsvetkov, who has been outspokenly critical about the project, it could just as easily be used by “a serial killer or a collector trying to hunt down a debtor.”