PimEyes – a dangerous face search engine

PimEyes. With current tests, the New York Times confirms how dangerous this controversial online service, which is subject to a fee, really is.

Whether the PimEyes offer is legal in Europe remains controversial. The image search engine with integrated face recognition searches the Internet for all available photos. It can assign the photos to individual persons with a high level of accuracy. You see yourself as a pure and therefore neutral “ tool provider “.

PimEyes fled to the Seychelles

After European data protection officials started sending urgent questions to the former Polish provider, a mailbox was opened in the Seychelles. Headquarters of Face Recognition Solutions Ltd. is now House of Francis, Room 64, Ile Du Port , Mahe in the Seychelles. The two main developers probably continue to live and work in Poland. But the change of seat was clearly done in order to escape from applicable EU law.

Background. PimEyes is a paid service that finds photos of a person from all over the internet. Incidentally, this also includes those that the person concerned might not want to see published at all. PimEyes also searches public databases and PDF documents. A few months ago, the prices for the accesses were increased by almost a third. Previous reporting certainly contributed to the price increase. Monthly the Open Plus plan costs 25 ,44 Euro. For this you can per day 25 Upload photos to search and identify people on the web.

TinEye’s reverse image search, a free competitor that doesn’t have built-in facial recognition, is already shockingly accurate. PimEyes is much more developed. The reverse search on the web only takes a few seconds there, too. According to the NYT, there’s no point in wearing sunglasses or turning away most of your face in the photo. During a test, the New York Times editors found photos of editors they had never seen themselves. Unlike Clearview AI, a comparable facial recognition service that was only available to law enforcement agencies, PimEyes no longer accesses social media sources. Only a few reverse search hits were incorrect, including those from streaming portals with explicit pornographic content.

Most hits were correct in the test

Customers include people who abuse PimEyes to discover the identity of annoying people on Twitter or who are looking for explicit photos of their acquaintances. For what purpose is not known. The current owner, Giorgi Gobronidze, describes PimEyes as a tool for good. It would help people keep track of their reputation on the web. In an interview, he said he relied on his customers to use his online tool “ethically” correctly. But no one controls whether you are looking for your own face or that of a stranger. Ella Jakubowska from the data protection NGO European Digital Rights (EDRi), on the other hand, describes PimEyes as pure “StalkerWare“.

In the year 2000 Gobronidze took participated in an exchange program and taught at a university in Poland. One of his students introduced him to two “hackers” named Lucasz Kowalczyk and Denis Tatina. At that time, they were already working on their own online search engine for faces. They were “brilliant thought leaders“, said the student, but “complete introverts” who were not interested in public attention . Their project later resulted in PimEyes. Their search engine uses neural networks that map features of a face to match faces with similar biometrics. The program is even able to optimize this adjustment independently. For Gobronidze, the plans of the two Polish students sounded like motifs from a science fiction novel.

pimeyesDoes PimEyes or we have the right to our own picture?

The all-important question is whether we as individuals have a right to control the photos in which we are featured. Because if you don’t want to be found on PimEyes, you will be asked to pay. The company charges a monthly fee for protection against disclosure of one’s own identity. The PROtect Plan starts at 84.84 euros per month. Less an inheritance, PimEyes wants per year 920.27 charge € for this. Justified fee or even online extortion? That’s the question.

The PROtect service also gets the help of PimEyes support staff to remove photos from external websites. When asked by the NYT, the CEO announced that there was also a free tool for deleting results. But you have to find that first, as difficult as it was to find it on their website. Coincidence or intention?


If you want to prevent your own photos from being assigned, you must send the company copies of your ID. Well, or just pay, because otherwise PimEyes will only delete the connection to this one photo and not to everyone that the service has already found on the Internet. And PimEyes is just one company of many. The question is how much you have to pay to get all these companies to go offline online for a limited time. The list of competitors is long, but they find different numbers of photos or are sometimes much less able to assign the photos to the identity of a person.

A German data protection authority announced 2021 an investigation against PimEyes for possible violations of European data protection law. It is specifically about the company’s extremely relaxed handling of the biometric data of countless EU citizens.

If you want to be forgotten, you have to pay!

CEO Gobronidze claims, he has not yet received any notification in this regard. He wouldn’t worry about that either. The company does not store photos or individual facial templates, only the URLs for individual images that are linked to the facial features contained within. The material is public anyway. PimEyes also instructs users to only search for their own faces. Whether this architectural difference matters to regulators remains to be clarified.


About Lars Sobiraj2021

Lars Sobiraj started in 2000 as a career changer for various computer magazines be. 2006 numerous other online magazines were added in addition to gulli.com. He is the founder of Tarnkappe.info. In addition, Ghandy, as he calls himself in the scene, has been teaching participants at various universities and training institutions since 2006, how the internet works.

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