FaceApp is entertaining, but at what cost?
What We Know:
- FaceApp- AI Face Editor is a viral photo editing app that ‘ages’ users’ photos among other cool features. It is currently the #1 free app on the Apple app store. 12.7 million new users downloaded the app in the last week. Forbes reported the app has access to 150 million faces.
- By using the app, users agree to the vague terms and conditions. The terms include granting the company a royalty-free, never-ending license to “reproduce, modify, adapt, republish, 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…”
- These terms are not uncommon. In relation to other apps, FaceApp’s terms seem fairly standard in the tech industry. CNN reported that Facebook uses similar language in their agreement: “If you share a photo on Facebook, you give us permission to store, copy, and share it with others.”
- Snapchat’s terms of service reads, “For all content you submit to the Services other than Public Content, you grant Snap Inc. and our affiliates a worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, and distribute that content.”
- The other concern raised about FaceApp is that it uses a cloud service to filter users photos. There are increased security risks involved when an app does not perform its action directly on its users’ devices.
- The company’s founder, Yaroslav Goncharov, explained, ” 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.” The company uses AWS and Google Cloud, Techcrunch reported.
- The fact that the app was developed by a Russian company seems to be the main thing fueling the backlash. Russia does have a sketchy track record when it comes to manipulating technology, most recently in the U.S. 2016 presidential election. Goncharov emphasized that no data is “transferred to Russia.”
- Some are still not convinced the app is harmless. The Democratic National Committee has issued an alert to 2020 presidential candidates warning them against using the app. Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer, said: “It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks.” The warning comes after Russian operatives hacked into the DNC’s email servers during the last election.
- The major threat this app poses is that users don’t understand how the app uses their data. There does not appear to be anything sinister going on here. Anything the app does, it does with the users’ permission.
FaceApp is starting a much-needed conversation about digital privacy.