News & Politics

A Creepy iPhone Feature Is Storing Photos of Your Breasts Without Your Knowledge

Has AI technology gone too far this time?

Photo Credit: Kaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

Each iteration of the iPhone includes new technological capabilities, but one arguably creepy feature rolled out in iOS 10 last year flew under some users' radars. While it seems that phones know its users a bit too well at times, even suggesting emojis based on the words typed, the technology also sorts personal photos and places them into searchable categories – including deeply intimate ones.

On Monday a Tweet went viral when a user learned that one of these searchable terms was ‘brassiere’:

By Tuesday, Chrissy Teigen had jumped into the mix:

As The Guardian explained the “AI that recognises objects was trained on a library of hundreds of thousands of labelled images, and is almost uncannily accurate.” In fact, a Medium post published by developer Kenny Yin lists the “4,432 different scenes and objects” which “can be searched for in all languages.”

Google Photos also has this feature, and includes ‘brassiere’ as well, however this recognition happens in a separate Google cloud, which The Guardian reports it asks users for “permission to upload pictures” to.  

The widespread discovery raised suspicion on Twitter over whether Apple is actively saving or has access to these photos, which would not be surprising in the days of ‘the cloud,’ Snapchat screenshots and the leaking of celebrity nudes. Technologically speaking, however, The Guardian clarifies that “the actual recognition is carried out entirely on the iPhone itself, with a unique version of the AI running on each device, meaning your brassiere pictures remain entirely private.”

Even though the AI may be contained to to individual devices, it’s creepy that ‘brassiere’ was included as one of the recognized objects. If anything, maybe the buzz around this iPhone feature will lead to users looking more closely into the ways in which Apple (and its smart devices) has previously violated people’s privacy, especially regarding location services, keeping 30-day logs of who messages are sent to, and tracking call logs in iCloud.

h/t The Guardian

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Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.