Friday, June 3, 2022


Kashmir Hill:

For $29.99 a month, a website called PimEyes offers a potentially dangerous superpower from the world of science fiction: the ability to search for a face, finding obscure photos that would otherwise have been as safe as the proverbial needle in the vast digital haystack of the internet.

A search takes mere seconds. You upload a photo of a face, check a box agreeing to the terms of service and then get a grid of photos of faces deemed similar, with links to where they appear on the internet.


PimEyes found photos of every person, some that the journalists had never seen before, even when they were wearing sunglasses or a mask, or their face was turned away from the camera, in the image used to conduct the search.


PimEyes has tens of thousands of subscribers, Mr. Gobronidze said, with most visitors to the site coming from the United States and Europe. It makes the bulk of its money from subscribers to its PROtect service, which includes help from PimEyes support staff in getting photos taken down from external sites.

PimEyes has a free “opt-out” as well, for people to have data about themselves removed from the site, including the search images of their faces.

Nick Heer:

You do not even need to pay the $30 per month fee. You can test PimEyes’ abilities for free.


PimEyes shares the problem found with any of these people finding tools, no matter their source material: they do not seem dangerous in isolation, but it is their ability to coalesce and correlate different data points to create a complete profile. Take a picture of anyone, then dump it into PimEyes to find their name and, perhaps, a username or email address correlated with the image. Use a different people-based search engine to find profiles across the web that share the same online handle, or accounts registered with that email address. Each of those searches will undoubtedly lead to greater pools of information, and all of this is perfectly legal. The only way to avoid being a subject is to submit an opt-out request to services that offer it.


Gobronidze has to know that not everybody using its service is searching for pictures of themselves or those who have consented.


3 Comments RSS · Twitter

Their opt-out form, ironically enough, requires you to fork over a "clear picture of your face" as well as (and this is where it gets really weird) *a scan of your ID or passport.*

I guess their opt-out form is kind of reasonable, they want to know if it's really you. The problem occurs, again, due to the effect Nick Heer describes: opting out of one service is fine, but in order to truly protect yourself, you'd have to opt out of hundreds or perhaps thousands of these services, and new ones keep cropping up.

Yeah, that's true. I just find it sort of dystopian that to opt-out of a service that harvests your personal data, the price is handing over even more of said data. 🙃

Leave a Comment