Technology is advertised as making our lives easier… but there’s a tradeoff.
Privacy, individual rights, and confidentiality are ditched in an effort for amusement. In fact, these databases now have access, globally, to billions of people’s identities… and FaceApp is now a leader among them.
In fact, CNET claims that FaceApp was a test… that America failed miserably.
Breitbart News reported:
Owned by Russian parent company Wireless Labs, FaceApp is a popular mobile app allowing users to add visual effects to photos of their faces to alter their facial expressions, look, and appearance of age.
FaceApp have been downloaded by more than 100 million people via Google Play on the Android platform, and by over 50 million people across other platforms including Apple’s iOS. It was launched in 2017.
Users grant FaceApp license right to use their aforementioned data in perpetuity. Its terms of service include the following clause:
You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you. When you post or otherwise share User Content on or through our Services, you understand that your User Content and any associated information (such as your [username], location or profile photo) will be visible to the public.
Wired addressed the Forbes report in a column titled, “Think FaceApp Is Scary? What Till You Hear About Facebook”:
The response to FaceApp is predictable, if only because this cycle has happened before. FaceApp went viral when it launched in 2017, and prompted a similar—if far more muted—privacy kerfuffle. But compared to Meitu, that year’s other viral face manipulator, which is quite a phrase to type, FaceApp was downright saintly in its data collection.
At least FaceApp didn’t access your GPS and SIM card information. More energy was directed at bigger problems, like FaceApp’s blackface filter. (Yep!)
Wired advised reader to be vigilant about protecting their data in all circumstances:
You should ask questions about FaceApp. You should be extremely cautious about what data you choose to share with it, especially something as personal as photo of your face. But the idea that FaceApp is somehow exceptionally dangerous threatens to obscure the real point: All apps deserve this level of scrutiny—including, and especially, the ones you use the most.
FaceApp released the following statement in response to the above-mentioned reports:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.
- Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.
Additionally, we’d like to comment on one of the most common concerns: all pictures from the gallery are uploaded to our servers after a user grants access to the photos (for example, https://twitter.com/joshuanozzi/status/1150961777548701696). We don’t do that. We upload only a photo selected for editing. You can quickly check this with any of network sniffing tools available on the internet.
Thank you for your query!
If you have any additional questions o…
— FaceApp (@faceapp_ai) July 17, 2019
Why are we still using this app? Even if you take FaceApp at its word that it’s not uploading all of your photos, the company still says troubling things, like promising that it deletes most — but not all — user images after 48 hours. OK… What is it doing with the images it keeps?
Another good question: What sort of vetting do Apple and Google do before hosting apps like FaceApp that collect user data in order to deliver targeted ads? Is there any extra scrutiny of apps like these that are based out of Russia?
I’ve asked both companies these questions, and will update this space with on-the-record responses if I receive them.
“Users want more control and transparency over how their personal information is being used by applications, and expect Android, as the platform, to do more to provide that control and transparency,” Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management, Android & Google Play, wrote in a recent blog post. “This responsibility to users is something we have always taken seriously, and that’s why we are taking a comprehensive look at how our platform and policies reflect that commitment.”
“We have strict policies on how app developers can handle user data,” a Google spokesperson adds, pointing out that when a violation is found, the company takes action.
A much larger issue than FaceApp
Playing it safe and saying thanks but no thanks to FaceApp should be an easy call. But everything is relative, and it’s unfair to zero in on one problematic app when the entire internet is riddled with glaring privacy concerns, to the point where we’ve grown somewhat numb to them. As one headline put it, “Think FaceApp is scary? Wait until you hear about Facebook.”
In other words, anyone concerned with FaceApp ought to be concerned with the entire app ecosystem — and maybe it’s a good thing that the FaceApp hubbub is drawing more attention to the larger issue at hand. In that sense, concerns about FaceApp and FaceApp alone probably are somewhat overblown.
But let’s be careful not to shrug this one off. For most of us, sacrificing some privacy in order to enjoy the fruits of the internet is unavoidable, but unless we see larger action toward regulating these sorts of data privacy concerns, we’ll need to get much, much better at drawing lines for ourselves.
Call me a killjoy, but maybe that means taking a pass on posting pics of what we’ll look like in 30 years. Personally, I’m more concerned about what the state of privacy will look like in 30 years. I don’t need AI to show me that it ain’t pretty.
Conservative Daily Post suggests that readers should also be aware that absolutely nothing posted on the internet is safe. And, warns users that their faces may be used for purposes other than what they intended, including criminal searches and more.