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This girls-only app uses AI to screen a user’s gender — what could go wrong?

A new social app called Giggle is pitching itself as a girls-only networking platform. To sign up, users have to take a selfie. And while that might not sound too invasive, the app then uses “bio-metric gender verification software” to determine whether that person is a woman. If that wasn’t already bad enough, the technology doesn’t work if you’re trans.

“[G]iggle is for all girls,” the company points out on its website, before adding, “Due to the gender-verification software that giggle uses, trans-girls will experience trouble with being verified.” It’s the stuff of a dystopian novel.

Giggle, founded by Australian screenwriter Sall Grover, supposedly looks at the bone structure of a person’s face to determine their gender. That’s problematic on a number of fronts, not least of which is that bone structure is clearly a poor indicator of gender identity. Nevertheless, Giggle says the science is sound. “It’s Bio-Science, not pseudo-science like phrenology,” the website declares.

Except it sounds a lot like pseudo-science. On Twitter, people called out the app’s inherent transphobia. “We shall await our judgement like sheep,” one user wrote. “All it takes is one selfie—if giggle lets us in, we are welcomed into the society of women, to pass forevermore. If not, we shall be abandoned in a heap of offals and excrement.”

Finally, the ultimate test has been prepared for trans-girls. We shall await our judgment like sheep. All it takes is one selfie—if giggle lets us in, we are welcomed into the society of women, to pass forevermore. If not, we shall be abandoned in a heap of offals and excrement pic.twitter.com/lZnw8AzZF0

Grover responded to the criticism, tweeting that she’d consulted trans women while building the app and determined it was best to openly admit the software’s limits. “We worked with trans girls who decided it was best to be upfront with a flaw so there wasn’t any hurtful misgendering,” she explained. Later, she said she was “grateful for the feedback” and agreed that some of the wording on the website was “hideous.”

The app’s privacy policy is also a cause for concern, however. As one Twitter user pointed out, Giggle can collect a ton of personal information, including peoples’ images, location, preferences, and browsing data. Giggle is able to then share that information with third-party websites and services, including facial recognition providers, chat room providers, and marketers. It also collects sensitive information including peoples’ “sexual practices or sex life,” their criminal records, and their private health information.

More red flags. Here’s their privacy policy where it says straight up they are collecting and reserve the right to distribute girls’ images. pic.twitter.com/PWGhpen8eq

It’s unclear why Giggle would need access to such granular data, given that its goal is primarily to connect women with potential roommates or travel buddies. But in an era of ever-expanding surveillance, with companies like Clearview AI identifying people’s faces without their knowledge or consent, an app built on dubious biometric screening and extensive data collection should be cause for concern. While Giggle’s website says the app is “designed to give girls choice, control and connection,” its technology seems to do just the opposite.

Giggle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This Article was first published on theverge.com

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