Telefnica SA: Deepfake technology, beyond reality, cybersecurity and life (and death)

If people are light and dark, technology as a tool can be. The outcome depends on the ultimate intention of whoever controls. One of the dark sides of artificial intelligence is deepfakes. But all is not as bad as it seems.

Donald Trump, Barack Obama and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have all been victims of deepfakes. Even someone like Tom Cruise faced competition from a deepfake with his own account on TikTok.

Actor Steve Buscemi’s face replaced that of actress Jennifer Lawrence, while Scarlett Johansson was less fortunate and hers was used in pornographic videos.

Its very name tells us everything. The term deepfake comes from “deep”, referring to deep learning, and “false” or false. Therefore, a deepfake is, in short, a video in which the face or voice of a famous person is imitated in such a way as to be superimposed on the face of another person with similar morphological characteristics.

Thus, the image of the supplanted person is manipulated, as well as, of course, the information that can be provided.

This technology is based on artificial intelligence and relies on machine learning. Because it uses data analysis to simulate another person’s face or voice as realistically as possible.

This data is obtained from hundreds of hours of recordings of the person to be “replicated” and it is used to create new data, i.e. to easily recreate not only the image of a person, but also his gestures and his way of speaking. .


Familiar tasks

Deep learning is essential for the above. It is a branch of machine learning that gives machines the ability to learn automatically without any human having to program them. This allows them, for example, to make predictions.

Deep learning is an extra step, as it trains the machine to develop a technique that will help it perform tasks such as image and speech recognition. It is something that has been used in a different form for quite a long time.

The sound and image recognition systems found in virtual assistants like Alexa, Google, Cortana and Siri and some game consoles are well known.

Computers can thus perform tasks and function in the same way as the human brain and understand the data they process. But, more importantly, deep learning makes it easier to recognize and create patterns.


Dangers for businesses

News of the application of deepfakes in porn came to light in 2017. A-list actresses such as Natalie Portman and world famous singers such as Taylor Swift had their faces used in porn videos.

These scandals were followed by other equally damaging ones in the form of hoaxes and fake news. The problem of disinformation has started to take the form of manipulated and very real videos, so much so that it now worries experts in artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, due to the loss of confidence in the messages reaching the public and of fraud that may be committed.

According to a Tessian survey, 74% of IT managers are worried about the potential effects of these videos. For businesses, this can lead to issues in sensitive areas such as cybersecurity and data protection.

Identity theft and fraud are risks. Cybercriminals can, for example, create a person’s image or ask their employees to carry out compromising operations, as the technology consultancy Entelgy warns.

Businesses can also be hit by defamation campaigns, damaging their reputation. The above leads to the need to improve cybersecurity systems.


The reality in debate

The debate is on the table: what is true and what is not true? In an attempt to shed light on the matter, Michigan State University (USA) and Facebook are working together to create a new approach through reverse engineering.

The goal is not only to detect manipulation, but also to trace back to the source in order to identify the patterns and the AI ​​model that generates these videos in real environments. This is possible because each frame generated by the AI ​​model leaves an imprint and this imprint can be compared to those of other manipulated videos.


Other uses: the advantages of deepfake

Not everything is necessarily bad. The use of these contents also has its good and fun side. Entertainment, without any malicious intent, is one of the sectors that can boast of deepfakes that do not harm anyone, quite the contrary.

The world of cinema is already benefiting from this technology and, thanks to AI, Millie Bobby Brown, the actress of the extraordinary TV series Stranger Things, has been reunited with the life and youth of the stellar Princess Leia.

The same technology kept the character in Star Wars: A thugdespite the death of Carrie Fisher, and it featured a young Robert de Niro playing his role in The Irishman.

Another example is that of Salvador Dalí, brought back to life in an American museum. In an exhibition called “Dali lives”, the genius plays in 125 interactive videos that enhance and enrich the visitor’s experience.

Dalí also entered the field of advertising in a campaign for the Queen Sofia Foundation on the need to promote research on neurodegenerative diseases, the artist being suffering from Parkinson’s disease. The advertising world has also brought back the Lola Flores accent to promote a well-known brand of beer.

Although deepfake technology remains very difficult to detect for the untrained eye, we will always have common sense and the ability to verify anything that may seem disparate. The manipulation of the above videos means that the saying “seeing is believing” is no longer true.

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