Only… it isn’t Tom Cruise. These videos are highly sleek deepfakes – the latest technology causing a storm across the world.
What are deepfakes and how do they work?
Input real video and audio data of a specific person and the software recognises patterns in speech and movement. Introduce a new element to the software such as someone else’s face and voice, and a deepfake is born. As with most AI applications, the amount of data available determines the sophistication of the end product. This explains why Tom Cruise – one of the most photographed celebrities – has become a number one deepfake target.
So far, deepfakes have mostly been created or used by amateurs on social media platforms. However, their future potential to be used in a malicious manner is of real concern. Experts suggest deepfakes are an imminent threat to the erosion of democracy. In an era of fake news and clickbait, widely-circulating deepfakes, such as those of highly authoritative figures making believable yet false claims, is detrimental to reputation and public trust. Deepfakes have the power to skew our perception of reality to such an extent that genuine reality is something we plausibly deny.
There is a strong likelihood that criminals will use deepfakes in the future, for instance in phishing attacks, or in extreme cases, to blackmail individuals for ransom. With the technology being used for such basic ruses as imitating the voice of a family member or friend asking for a money transfer, deepfake technology is undoubtedly establishing smoother routes of operation for cybercriminals – at an alarming rate.
Net positive for humanity?
The potential benefits of deepfakes to society mark exciting tech prospects, equipping us with the ability to impact at scale and speed. However, as the tech becomes more widely available, so too does the opportunity for misuse. We need to be questioning its morality and safety within our society now, before it’s too late.