AI-enhanced photos raise ethical concerns: Are smartphone snaps getting too fake?

The advancement of smartphone cameras, driven by computational photography and artificial intelligence (AI), has enabled users to capture professional-quality images. However, the introduction of…

AI-enhanced photos raise ethical concerns: Are smartphone snaps getting too fake?


The AI technology can be used to generate or remove elements from images.

You can also use the Smartphone

Over the past five years, cameras have gotten incredibly powerful. The advancements in technology were a major factor in their quality leap.

Computing photography


The technology behind the use of

This uses sensors, algorithms, and artificial intelligence to produce sharp, realistic pictures. Now, anyone can take stunning photos that are on par with the work of professionals. What's next? I'm sorry to say: faker pictures.

Google will begin shipping the Google Pixel on Thursday.

Pixel 8

The $700 phone comes with AI-powered tools for editing photos. The software on the phone does more than just adjust sharpness and brightness -- it also uses


To create imagery or remove elements so that you get the exact photo you want. Imagine, for example, a picture where a person's shoulders are cut off. Google's software allows you to move the person in the photo by tapping the Magic Editor button. The software will then use AI to create the rest of the shoulder. Imagine a photo you took of your friend standing in front of an historical monument. However, the background of the picture is filled with tourists. You can use the same editing tool to select the photobombers and click the Erase button. Google's software can automatically fill in the background with images. In just seconds, strangers are gone. Google Photos is its free photo-album app available for Android and iPhones. It has over 1 billion users. The company stated that the Pixel 8 is the first device to have the AI editor. This means that the same tools will be available for other devices in the near future. Google's AI editor is a part of the wave of generative AI that became popular last year with the release of ChatGPT, a chatbot which generates text in response prompts. DALL-E's image-based generative tools, like Adobe Firefly, Midjourney, and DALL-E let users create images by typing in a prompt. For example, "a cat asleep on a window sill." The Pixel 8 marks a major turning point. The Pixel 8 is the first phone that integrates generative AI into the photo-creation process without charging extra. This will push smartphone photography to a new era where people are more likely to doubt whether the images they take, including those of their loved ones, are real. Apple's iPhone camera is capable of adding some artificial effects such as "stage lights" which brighten a subject while blacking out the background. However, it does not generate fake imagery. Ren Ng, computer science professor and computational photographer at the University of California Berkeley, said that this is a momentous occasion. As we boldly move forward into the future, a photograph is no longer just a visual. To see if this was a good idea, I took and edited dozens photos using the Pixel 8 to test it. I was impressed, frightened and sceptical about whether I wanted to continue generating fake images. What I found.

I continued my tradition of testing smartphone cameras by using the Pixel 8 and taking photos of two dogs, Max, a Corgi and Mochi, an orange Labrador. Then, I applied the AI.

Results were mixed. I was trying to get rid of a police citation for Max, who is sitting on a rock. The officer had written that my dogs were running off leash in a dog park without a permit. Who has heard of this? I used the Magic Editor feature in the Google Photos application to trace an outline around a piece of paper. It did an amazing job. The software replaced the annoying piece of paperwork with a rock slab and a few pine needles. I moved her left in another picture where the right side was cut off of Mochi's butt. The Pixel 8 moved her well, but her computer-generated right behind was blurry. Her left paw also was cut off. Next came the most shocking result. I moved Mochi to a different position in a picture of a pizza place where her face was partially cut off. This allowed me to see if AI could recreate the rest of Mochi's head. The software didn't perfectly recreate her grizzled face, but it produced a half-demi god hellhound with hooves growing from her legs. Google has a button called Regenerate that you can use if you're not happy with the results. I used it. It produced the same results every time. In the same picture, I highlighted and deleted the strangers who were in the background. It worked, but it was unsettling. It reminded me of the "snap scene" in "Avengers: Infinity War," where half the population of the universe disappeared. Google is expecting people to encounter imperfections in the early stages. The company stated that the feature was in its early stages, and it would not always be perfect. "We are looking for feedback in order to improve our models."

Here's what I think: These AI editing tools shouldn't be so prominently featured in the flagship photos app, especially when they are in such a flawed state.

Even when technology improves, we will still have to navigate and consider broader issues -- like the ethical implications of artificial images. Clarity and brightness can be added to photos without changing the image's substance. Artificially adding elements into a photo is a step beyond the norm, and can make an image fake. These AI tools could be used to create and share fake photos online, at a time when misinformation and distrust are rampant. He has his own set of limits. He said that anything that he felt would compromise his authenticity as a photographer was problematic. For myself, I'd use AI photo tools to remove distracting visuals from family photos, such as the photo bomber ruining a great photo. Even then, I'd use these tools sparingly and not post the fakery online. This article was originally published in The New York Times.