FaceApp and the #faceappchallenge have taken over social media feeds once again, for some inexplicable reason, but this time around punters are having concerns over the true intentions of the app. Is Putin looking at your holiday photos again?
First released in 2017, the smartphone app uses a filter to digitally age an image of your face by 40 years or so, adding wrinkles, eye bags, grey hair, and a vague look of regret behind the eyes. Thousands of social media users have uploaded their image to the app and shared the results, from Miley Cyrus and Ludacris to Gordon Ramsey and the Jonas Brothers.
However, its sudden resurgence in popularity has seen some people flag up concerns over data security and privacy. Using the app entails agreeing to a lengthy “terms and conditions” page and handing over bucket loads of data. Most notably, the app appears to have access to your camera roll, despite the app not having permission to do so.
It also doesn’t help that the app was developed by a company, Wireless Lab, based in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg. Based on – y’know – the small issue of Russia previously using private data from social media to manipulate elections and referendums across the world, people are a tad tetchy about the app.
The concerns have even led Chuck Schumer, New York’s Senator, to call for an FBI investigation into the national security risks of FaceApp.
But is this something you should really be losing sleep over? Is your face going to end up on a nefarious Twitter profile spreading fake news about Western democracies?
In short, FaceApp is no more worrying than any of your apps.
Most apps, including Facebook and Twitter, require users to agree to a curiously farreaching set of terms of conditions that allows access to your data. This data, which can be used and sold on, is effectively the currency you are using to buy the app. As it’s often said, “If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.”
Faceapp is no different. If you’re getting concerned over this app’s access to your data and its intention, then you should also be worrying about the other apps and social media sites your frequent.
“We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties,” Yaroslav Goncharov, founder of Wireless Lab, said in a statement given to Tech Crunch. “Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.”
“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,” he continued.
"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."