Artificial Intelligence

Lensa AI app: What to know about the self portrait generator

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An influx of vibrant AI self portraits has taken over social media in the past week. Each of these are a rendered image of someone’s face, created by Lensa. The viral image editing app, created by Prisma AI, morphs selfies into what the company refers to as “magic avatars”. But, as with nearly everything on the internet, things aren’t as simple as they appear.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new feature — and its accompanying controversies.

What does Lensa AI do? How do I get it?

Lensa AI is an image editing app, available on the App Store and Google Play. Despite the recent surge in interest, it’s been around since 2018, and according to Prisma, has “millions of users”. Several celebrities have posted recent portraits, including Pose and Loot star Michaela Jaé Rodriguez and Ghosts star Danielle Pinnock.

According to Lensa’s site, the app takes photos “to the next level” with various tools including Face Retouch and Magic Correction that “perfect the facial imperfections”. But when it comes to the app’s distinctive, exaggerated AI portraits, these aren’t purely the result of filters. Instead, they’re created with a feature that requires uploading 10 to 20 pictures of yourself. “These AI avatars are generated from scratch but with your face in mind,” the company explains, promising “hundreds of artworks created by #artificialintelligence for you!”

Lensa’s avatars aren’t a free feature; you can purchase them starting at $3.99 for 50 images. Lensa AI’s virality has skyrocketed since the feature — it currently sits at the number one spot on the App Store’s Photo and Video chart. Yes, memes have begun.

What data does Lensa AI collect?

Lensa and parent company Prisma have encountered controversy, primarily as a result of the company’s privacy policy. Across the internet, people are skeptical about how their data is being used via Lensa — like you should with any company. While Prisma/Lensa says that it “do[es] not use photos you provide…for any reason other than to apply different stylized filters or effects to them,” the company retains personal data for a time not specified in the privacy policy.

Individuals can email [email protected] to request “access to, modification, correction, update, erasure or deletion” of any personal data provided to Prisma through Lensa, the company says. But the policy also states, “We may not accommodate a request to change information if we believe the change would violate any law or legal requirement or cause the information to be incorrect.”


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Notably, in Prisma’s terms and conditions, separate to the privacy policy, the company declares that “you retain all rights in and to your user content” but immediately deploys something here known as as a Company License, “for the limited purpose of operating, developing, providing and improving Prisma and researching, developing and improving our existing and new products.” By using the product, you are granting this license to the company, according to the site.

So, this is what you’re agreeing to by using Lensa, as per the T&Cs:

You grant us a perpetual, revocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, create derivative works from and transfer your User Content, without any additional compensation to you and always subject to your additional explicit consent for such use where required by applicable law and as stated in our Privacy Policy.

You grant us consent to use the User Content, regardless of whether it includes an individual’s name, likeness or persona, sufficient to indicate the individual’s identity. You further acknowledge and agree that our use of your User Content will not result in any injury to you or to any person you authorized to act on your behalf.

Just so you know!

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Anything else I should know about Lensa?

Beyond the terms, there’s also controversy surrounding the actual art being created on Lensa. People are have criticized the app’s approach to designing portraits of women and minorities. Some have said their portraits have been overly sexualized, for example.

Another major criticism is against using AI art at all, with many citing that these pieces are either stealing from or erasing the work of artists, many of whom are marginalized individuals. A thread by voice artist Jenny Yokobori explained that AI apps creating art, such as Lensa, “are predatory and intend to replace artists”.


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So while the app is still wildly popular — and potentially fun — there’s a whole lot to consider before using it to create your next profile picture.

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