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Technology’s inexorable advance has paved the way for deepfakes, an artificial intelligence (AI) that imitates a person’s physical appearance, actions, and mannerisms without the person being present.

The film industry is one of the places deepfakes are used without malicious intent. People can create content using the deepfakes of deceased celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Carrie Fisher, and Paul Walker. They are initially entertaining and fascinating. 

While Hollywood is one of the industries that benefit the most from this technology, deepfakes are also used more often in cybercrime and illegal activities. When utilized by the wrong people, deepfakes can be abused to distort geopolitical and democratic discourse, damage reputations, and jeopardize public safety and national security.

When Are Deepfakes Considered Illegal?

If the technology is being used outside the entertainment industry, it begs the question: are deepfakes illegal? Though the concept of a deepfake is not technically illegal, its potential to create chaos and manipulate public perception makes it a threat, both at individual and societal scales.

1. It infringes on aspects of intellectual property rights

Intellectual property rights are given to a person for their creation. This can include books, paintings, films, and computer programs.  

Concerns regarding intellectual property rights happen when someone under the guise of deepfake technology poses as the person owning said intellectual property. This action can potentially be an infringement of these rights. 

2. It violates personal rights

Many deepfakes concerning an individual make their way to exploitive and pornographic websites, affecting people unaware of the situation. With the AI technology used for deepfakes becoming increasingly intelligent every year, fewer source data is needed to create a clear image or recording of a victim.  

3. It damages a person’s reputation

Cybercriminals can use deepfakes to spread misinformation about you or another person. This happens by spreading false images, videos, or audio recordings about the subject that sparks feelings of concern, misunderstanding, or anger. 

4. It compromises data protection and privacy

Most internet users have personal data collected and stored by online businesses, employers, and the government. Having your identity virtually stolen and available to strangers due to deepfakes can threaten your data privacy, and your personal data may become easily susceptible to data breaches.

5. It disrupts political agendas

The impact of deepfake technology remains a threat to any country’s political landscape. In high-tension situations, such as election season for public servants, deepfakes can injure or negatively impact a candidate’s political reputation, thereby swaying votes in favor of the competition. 

6. It spreads misinformation 

Having manipulated images and videos circulating social media and news outlets, especially if it is a deepfake of a celebrity or other public figure, paves the way for misinformation, depending on the nature and intent of the deepfake. 

Misinformation, at worst, can lead to a general distrust of news sources, government officials, institutions, or individuals. Ultimately, the rampant use of deepfakes can make the public more unsure of what is real and what is fake.

7. It causes liability concerns 

Liability concerns occur when people who purchase or use a product or service fall victim to damage and incorrect information. 

In line with misinformation, promotional marketing materials can also circulate, with the spokesperson potentially being a victim of deepfakes. When legal action takes place, you wouldn’t know if the victim of deepfakes can be legally charged. 

8. It causes a threat to national security

On a larger scale, compared to disrupting political agendas, subjecting political figures and heads of state to deepfakes can cause distrust between countries. At its worst, misspoken or false claims delivered through deepfakes can trigger geopolitical tensions between countries.

Laws Addressing the Misuse of Deepfake Technology

With deepfakes posing a challenge to national security, the US government continues to crack down on the misuse of this technology as bad actors spread misinformation and distrust.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is tackling deepfakes. The 2021 NDAA now requires the Department of Homeland Security to submit an annual report on deepfakes and similar content. 

The Deepfake Report Act covers details about the technology used to generate deepfakes, how people can use this technology to impact domestic and foreign entities negatively, and the possible countermeasures

The law also tasks the US Department of Defense to recommend policy reforms and changes to deepfake technology infiltrating military personnel and their immediate families.

A second law, the Identifying Outputs of Generative Adversarial Networks Act, was implemented by former President Donald Trump in 2020. 

This law tasks the National Science Foundation to support research on the consequences of deepfakes and contents of a similar nature. It also requires the National Institute of Standards and Technology to support this development while providing methods to combat current and future technological equivalents.

A Deeply Rooted Security Issue

While the concept of AI remains a novelty, it continues to be exploited for malicious intentions. Deepfakes remain destructive to victims and elusive to the law, making policies harder to draft, implement, and enforce. 

Regardless of how difficult it is to catch deepfakes, knowing they exist in news channels, social media, and other entertainment platforms should encourage viewers to think critically before engaging to avoid becoming victims of fraud and other cybercrimes.

Due to the growing prevalence of cybercrime activities through deepfakes, understanding the value and importance of Know Your Customer (KYC) and Know Your Employee (KYE) verification processes can help limit companies and businesses from falling victim to deepfakes. 

Thankfully, you do not have to do it alone. Book a consultation with Q5id today to learn more about how identity verification and authentication solutions can help your business verify real people from fakes or artificial entities.

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