If you haven’t added “digital detox” to your list of New Year’s resolutions, chances are you’ve come across the surge of illustrated portraits on your social media timelines. Whether your friends transform into fairies, princesses, anime characters, or astronauts, these AI-generated images are the result of the Lensa app and its viral “Magical Avatars” feature that gained popularity in late 2022.
Sensor Tower analytics reveal that over 13.5 million people globally downloaded the Lensa app in the first 12 days of December 2022, with users spending approximately 30 million USD during that period. However, as Lensa’s user base continues to grow, so does the controversy surrounding the app’s impact on user privacy. Developed by U.S.-based tech company Prisma Labs, Lensa faces scrutiny for its data collection practices and potential privacy implications.
In this guide, we delve into everything you need to know about the Lensa app and provide tips to safeguard your personal information.
What is the Lensa app?
Lensa is a mobile photo-editing app that utilizes AI technology to transform users’ selfies into customized works of art for a fee. The app employs Stable Diffusion, an open-source AI deep-learning model, drawing from a database of 2.3 billion captioned images of art scraped from the internet. Stable Diffusion combines these images with 10-20 user-uploaded selfies to generate new works, offering additional AI-powered features for enhanced selfies.
These features include:
- Automatic enhancement: Adjustments to brightness, contrast, and color balance for improved image appearance.
- Object removal: Detection and removal of unwanted elements from images.
- Portrait mode: Application of a bokeh effect using facial detection technology.
- Smart filters: Suggestions for suitable filters based on the photo.
How much does the Lensa app cost?
Initially free to download, Lensa offers a seven-day trial, after which users can choose to pay a one-time fee for a specific number of unique avatars. Prices range from 3.99 USD for 50 AI-produced pictures (five variations of 10 styles) for subscribers, or 7.99 USD for non-subscribers. Additional avatars can be purchased at 11.99 USD for 100 images or 15.99 USD for 200 avatars, with a 50% discount for subscribers. A yearly subscription, providing unlimited avatars, costs 35.99 USD.
Privacy concerns beyond uploaded pictures
Despite Prisma Labs’ assurance that user photos and associated models are permanently erased from U.S.-based servers, concerns linger about potential privacy risks, including:
- Facial recognition: The app uses facial recognition, raising concerns about privacy, security, and identity implications.
- Data collection: Lensa requests access to the camera, microphone, location, contacts, and social media accounts, with uncertainties about how the data is used.
- Data breaches: Despite security measures, Lensa acknowledges the potential risk of cyberattacks and hacking.
- Inappropriate content: Reports of biased, sexually charged images, and alleged use of stolen art raise concerns.
Questionable images and copied art
Users have reported AI bias, generating stereotypical features based on race, and instances of sexually biased or explicit images. Controversy also surrounds alleged art theft, as some filters and stickers appear copied or stolen from artists without proper credit.
The company defends itself, stating that AI learns in a “semi-similar” way to humans, and generated art doesn’t infringe on copyright.
8 ways to ensure privacy while using Lensa
Considering the controversies and potential privacy risks, here are ways to protect your privacy while using Lensa:
- Be mindful of permissions: Review and adjust app permissions to limit access to your camera, microphone, location, contacts, and social media accounts.
- Opt out of data collection: Users can email [email protected] to opt out of Lensa’s data collection.
- Be aware of what you share: Know that Lensa can use and share your avatars without compensation, similar to major social platforms’ terms.
- Take metadata into account: Some uploaded images may contain default metadata; learn how to remove it to protect additional information.
- Run the latest version of the app: Ensure you have the latest app version for improved security.
- Report offensive results: Report biased or inappropriate results directly to Lensa through email or the app’s feedback system.
Should I uninstall the Lensa app?
The decision to uninstall Lensa depends on individual needs and concerns. If worried about data collection, facial recognition, or controversial content, uninstalling may be a viable option. However, mere uninstallation doesn’t delete the account and data permanently.
Steps to permanently delete your Lensa account
To permanently delete your Lensa account:
- Open the Lensa app, tap Settings, click on your Profile, and select Delete Account.
- Cancel your Lensa subscription if applicable.
- Fully remove all data by clearing the app’s cache and data in your device settings.
- Delete the Lensa app from your phone.
- Request data deletion from Lensa by emailing [email protected].
For more detailed instructions, refer to the official Lensa support.
In conclusion, while Lensa offers creative AI-driven features, users must weigh the benefits against potential privacy risks and controversies. Taking proactive steps to manage permissions and staying informed can help users make an informed decision about their use of the Lensa app.
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