There’s a viral Chinese deepfake app that will make you look like Celebrities in any video and photo

There’s a new trending app in China that lets people switch their faces into whichever celebrity they want to look like and the results are pretty convincing. A new viral app found by China’s iPhone users named ‘Zao’ which enables them to hilariously transpose their faces onto actors and actresses whichever they want to look like. This new app topped the iOS download chart within the first weekend after its launch on the App Store. Zao is still at the top most downloaded apps in the App Store. For now, this face transposing app is only available to Chinese people with Chinese phone number and users of UK or US-based App Store cannot access this app yet as it is not rolled out widely yet.

This viral app was created by a Chinese developer named MoMo. This app enables users to deepfake their faces into the huge variety of available singers, actors, and even video game characters as well. All a user needs is just a single image of its face to upload it on the app, and then the app will automatically scan the face and provide a variety of actors and videos clips for them. You’ll need to look more than once to convince yourself that the results are fake, otherwise they are surprisingly convincing.



The deepfake technology uses public imagination to analyze the user’s face and with the help of AI software, it maps it onto videos of someone else. Recently this new AI software has become more viral and accessible through the app named Zao.

The backlash of Zao with user privacy concerns

So many users can even insert their face onto video game characters that look pretty real. Zao is currently available in China but this new trending app is also raising concerns regarding user privacy and ethics regarding deepfakes.

Momo is a large social media company behind the development of Zao which also owns a Chinese dating app named Tantan. After going viral the concerns of users regarding their privacy also raised due to the app’s terms and conditions which stated that the app had free, irrevocable, permanent, transferable and relicense-able to user-generated content. The detection of this new line in the terms and conditions resulted in a backlash by WeChat to block Zao on its platform.

With the rise in the concerns of users, Zao quickly updates its terms and modified it into ‘headshots’ and mini-videos’ won’t be used for anything other than to improve the app.


Before Zao, there was this another viral app named FaceApp which caused a lot of mistrust due to its usage of user data without their consent and the sudden backlash for Zao may also be the reason behind the already scandalized similar app.

The team of Zao after modifying its terms also stated that user privacy concern will always be a matter of consideration and it will fix the issues received from the feedback but need a bit of time for it.

Bottom Line

If Zao doesn’t violate any user privacy then we think Zao should consider making this app available for users outside China as well but we think it is very unlikely for western users to trust a Chinese app to access their personal data and expand its surveillance network.

In 2017, a Chinese app named Meitu went viral in the west but not for long, later on, it was criticized by users for requiring access to excessive data like phone numbers and GPS coordinates, etc.


Photo: Shaw/Pandaily

Read next: Using Algorithms to Guard Against Deepfakes

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