If your socials are flooded with pictures of your friends looking like they came straight from the year 2100, just know that a time machine hasn’t been invented yet. It’s all because of FaceApp.
Created by Russian developer, Wireless Labs, the viral face-aging tool is a two-year-old mobile application for both iOS and Android. It uses a neural network technology to generate realistic facial transformations in photographs. It’s like going under the knife to achieve a new look, except you didn’t.
Beyond the fun, though, just how well do you really know the app? After all, it’s your picture you’re giving away to who knows who and where.
Here’s how the app works and what it can do to your personal data.
It transforms your face with filters
FaceApp allows you to do almost anything imaginable to alter your features. It can make you smile, change gender, look older, and even look younger.
Upon downloading and opening the app, you will have to grant it access to your photos. It pulls into the app whatever picture you select to edit.
Once you upload a photo, you’ll be able to apply filters including the following, among others:
- Age – makes you look younger or older
- Smiles – makes you smile
- Beards – adds various kinds of beards
- Hair Colors – changes your hair color
- Hair Styles – lets you choose a different hairstyle
- Glasses – lets you see what you look like with frames
There are premium filters, too, such as makeup and Hollywood-inspired looks.
The app, already in existence for two years, once had a blackface filter, drawing flak from its users. It has since removed its “ethnicity filters.”
It raises privacy concerns
Just the fact that FaceApp’s terms and conditions ask for “irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid, transferable sub-licensable license” for any and all of the pictures you’ll ever upload and edit in the app is enough for many users to raise the red flag.
This means that your selfies can be used for other purposes outside FaceApp, for instance, its own ads.
Another issue for FaceApp users is that the iOS app appears to be overriding settings if a user has denied access to the camera roll. This seems to suggest that the device’s whole camera roll is being uploaded into the app.
The photos are also uploaded to a cloud, but the app has initially not made it clear to users that processing is not going on locally in the device.
FaceApp has confirmed in a statement via Tech Crunch that the app’s effects are indeed done in a separate cloud. It clarifies, however, that it only uploads photos specifically selected for editing. Security tests also disprove claims that the app uploads the user’s entire camera roll.
“Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date,” the statement adds. “The user data is not transferred to Russia.”
The app also says that they don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.
The statement also points out that majority of FaceApp users don’t log in, which will not make it capable to link photos to identities.
You can do something about your data
For those who have already uploaded selfies in the app and wish to undo it, FaceApp says you can request for your data to be deleted.
“For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line,” the statement adds. “We are working on the better user interface for that.”
The app’s official response also says that though “our support team is currently overloaded, these requests have our priority.”
If you’re one of the few who are too late to catch on the trend or too occupied to be bothered by it, good for you. You can just choose not to download the app at all.
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