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Why do you want to think twice before using the viral AI portrait app Lensa?

Lensa AI, a photo-editing app launched in 2018, became a viral sensation last month after launching its “magical avatars” feature. The app’s popularity has flooded social media timelines with AI-generated portraits, but critics are raising concerns about privacy and ethics, NBC News reports.

The app’s newest feature allows users to upload ten or more images to reinvent them in various artistic styles. Lensa AI technology uses the Stable Diffusion neural network to create 50 unique portraits, which users can download for $7.99. The virality of the portraits helped the app to the top of the “Photo & Video” category of the iOS App Store earlier this month.

The app’s rapid growth has reignited the debate over the ethics of mass-producing images using technology trained on artists’ original work. Several artists have accused the company of using their work without permission. Others say the cheap mass production of copycat images undermines the work of artists who spend years refining their artistic style.

Prisma, the company behind Lensa AI, addressed the concerns in a recent Twitter thread. The company wrote that the AI-generated images “cannot be described as exact replicas of any particular work of art,” but did not refute claims that it used art without the artists’ permission.

Others have raised concerns about the company’s use of the photos, as the app requires permission to use the uploaded images to “operate or improve Lensa” without compensation. Prisma Labs said TechCrunch that the company remove images that users upload from cloud services after using them to train its AI. Still, “the fact that Lensa uses user content to further train its AI model,” perhaps with little user awareness, NBC writes, “should alarm the public.”

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