Is FaceApp Stealing our Data?
In the past week , the social media scene was flooded with a challenge called the FaceApp Challenge. The social media space like the Facebook, twitter and Instagram were swamped with images of young people turned old via a filter in FaceApp.
Naturally, like most things that go viral, FaceApp is now facing a backlash. Users have noted that FaceApp was created by developers at WirelessLabs in St. Petersburg, Russia in 2017 and that its Terms and Agreement suggest they own your photos.
Like other apps, FaceApp asks permission to access your photos, which are then sent through “a state of the art photo-editor powered by AI” to modify those images. In this latest trend, the app uses its technology to make users’ faces look older. But, the language in the Terms and the app’s country of origin has sparked a little bit of fear in the press as The New York Post reported that “Russians now own all your old photos.”
Extracting data from unsuspecting users, selling and sharing that data god-knows-where, and justifying it by providing users unreadable privacy policies is a near-universal practice. It transcends Cold War phobias. It’s not Russian. It’s not American. It’s a fundamentally capitalist practice. Companies can only provide free apps and profit if they scrape and share data from the people that use it.
In a statement to Tech Crunch, the company said, “Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.”
According to the FaceApp website, it currently has “over 80 million active users,” yet the viral concerns are not about how massive corporations buy-and-sell our data, it’s based on the notion that the Kremlin is maliciously hoarding our old selfies.
But, there is reason to be concerned about how all companies—not just Russian ones—use and sell our data. China has reportedly been using facial recognition to target minorities while Russia allegedly had deep roots in Cambridge Analytica and Facebook advertising. So, there are certainly reasons to be concerned about the data you’re sharing with companies—but the issue is a whole lot more complex than that photo you accidentally took from your pocket.
Data is powerful, but so is education. Before going full Red Selfie Scare, go through your phone and actually assess how much information you’re already putting out into the world.
The big solution here is that if you don’t want to have your image and information at risk, don’t use the app. But if you’re concerned about your information (or your selfies), you may also want to check your privacy settings for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Google. After all, every time a photo is uploaded to Facebook and suggests you tag someone, that too is facial recognition. You might be surprised with the access you’ve already given to these mega companies.
But if you are happy to see your old age when you are still young, you can jump on the bandwagon.