Is FaceApp Safe?

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Have you ever wondered what you'll look like in 20 or 30 years? There's a meme going around of ageing gracefully. It's powered by an app called FaceApp. But is it safe? Will your face appear in stock photography sites, or worse... on porn?

How Will You Look In 10, 20, or 30 Years?

Have you seen the latest meme ‘ageing gracefully?”

It’s where people post pics of themselves now and in the future and it’s all down to an app called FaceApp which is courting a bit of controversy and you should know why…

With 80 million users, celebrities and even some of your friends may be using the seemingly harmless app. Before you hop on this new trend, be aware of the concerns surrounding the collection and use of your personal data and image. 

If you’re not careful your face could be appearing on dating sites, websites, stock photography sites without your knowledge.  Or even worse, you could end up superimposed onto pornographic video, the term Deepfake originating froma Reddit user known as deepfakes who, in December 2017, used deep learning technology to edit the faces of celebrities onto people in pornographic video clips.”

What claims are being made?

A key difference with FaceApp and other scandals where user’s information has been taken and used elsewhere and for nefarious purposes (eg. Cambridge Analytica) is that you agree to terms of service before actually using the app.

When was the last time you read T&Cs? 🤓

The American media are all over it –

FaceApp Terms of Service

According to FaceApp’s privacy policy, the use of the app gives them access to collect:

  • According to FaceApp’s privacy policy, the use of the app gives them access to collect:
  • User Content (e.g., photos and other materials) that you post through the Service.
  • Cookies and similar technologies like pixels, web beacons, and local storage to collect information about how you use FaceApp
  • Measure traffic and usage trends for the Service
  • Ask advertisers or other partners to serve ads or services to your devices
  • Automatically record certain log file information, including your web request, Internet Protocol (“IP”) address, browser type, referring / exit pages and URLs, number of clicks and how you interact with links on the Service, domain names, landing pages, pages viewed, and other such information
  • Small data files or similar data structures stored on or associated with your mobile device
  • Metadata

How do the terms of service differ from other apps?

Turns out what FaceApp is collecting on you is not unlike what other applications and websites regularly collect, including Instagram. Check out its data policy:

Plus, anytime you click agree to cookies and privacy agreements when accessing a website, they begin storing your data and webpage activity.

Russia's Involvement

The thing that is causing concern is that Russian entities may have this data and these particular ones are pretty good at AI. Ever since the 2016 US Presidential Election, people have been fearful of Russia’s alleged state sponsored hacking and what may happen with said data.

People are concerned about how Russia could be altering their data, as AI becomes more widely used and realistic. For example, the researchers at Nvidia have become pros at blending images of 2+ people, making an entirely new, virtual person that doesn’t exist.

According to The Verge, AI has become so advanced that “experts have been raising the alarm for the past couple of years about how AI fakery might impact society. These tools could be used for misinformation and propaganda and might erode public trust in pictorial evidence, a trend that could damage the justice system as well as politics. 

Since FaceApp uses AI software to create a Deepfake; “an AI-based technology used to produce or alter video content so that it presents something that didn’t, in fact, occur,” some are concerned about it’s potential if FaceApp distributes users likeness.

Watch the video below to see the full extent of AI tech (linked above from The Verge):

FaceApp's Response

While FaceApp maintains that it’s safe, the trust just isn’t there. The following is their response to the scandal:

  1.  FaceApp performs most of the photo processing in the cloud. We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.
  2. We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.
  3. We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. 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. We are working on the better UI for that.
  4. All FaceApp features are available without logging in, and you can log in only from the settings screen. As a result, 99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person.
  5. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.
  6. Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.

Our Thoughts

FaceApp uses data very similarly to other applications, the story was just blown up by the media. Hey it’s summer – slow news time.  With that being said we would still steer clear of the app until an investigation is completed and be mindful of how your data and image is being used on other sites.

You need to think about where your data goes. Teach your children that it’s precious.

If you need help, call and let’s talk on 087 799 8066, or contact us and we’ll get back to you asap.

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