A security researcher who goes by the pseudonym Elliot Alderson (real name Baptiste Robert) downloaded the app and checked where it was sending users’ faces. The French cyber expert found FaceApp only took submitted photos—those that you want the software to transform—back up to company servers. If you want to do a quick touch-up on your pics, this tap-to-apply application is perfection. It’s great for people on-the-go who need a quick touch-up on their photos. The filters are highly customisable and can alter the mood of the photo without messing with the image quality.
“People got scared because they think everything we say in this policy we do, which of course is not the case at all,” he says. The app, which has gained more than 12.7 million new users in the past week, told TechCrunch that they don’t sell or share user date with third parties. However, people are still suspicious of how the app could use your private data. The broad terms of service mean FaceApp developer Wireless Lab could use your face photos for anything from advertisements to facial recognition training.
(It’s also possible to pay $20 for a year’s access or $40 for lifetime use). But it’s not bad for a 12-employee business that’s been profitable for two years, by Goncharov’s account at least. But no sooner had the FaceApp virality reached fever pitch than fear about the provenance and motives of the app’s creators emerged.
When Apple finally banned that app, Facebook snuck it in again through the backdoor. And that’s before you get to the privacy violations that have led to a reported $5 billion fine from the FTC, a record by orders of magnitude. The face-filter app has dominated social media over the past few days, but it’s come under fire for its terms of service which allows its Russia-based developer to use photos run through the app for commercial purposes.
Is FaceApp a Russian app?
FaceApp is a mobile application for iOS and Android developed by Russian company Wireless Lab. The app generates highly realistic transformations of faces in photographs by using neural networks based on artificial intelligence. The app can transform a face to make it smile, look younger, look older, or change gender.
Photo illustration by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images With millions of users enamored with the app, Goncharov quickly had to formulate a business plan. His idea was that people would pay for an automated photo editor, so he added a paid-for subscription offer that would remove the FaceApp watermark and irritating ads, as well as add some premium features. Effectively, FaceApp was to replace PhotoShop editors with AI, Goncharov ventured. He reiterates that the company deletes photos in 48 hours, asking the Amazon and Google servers, on which FaceApp runs, to automatically wipe data that’s been on the system for that time.
Further anxiety stems from whether FaceApp has access to users’ entire camera roll (if permission is granted to the app) – given people regularly screenshot private information, this could be a huge data breach. However,severalsourcesfound no evidence that the app gets access to photos not uploaded by the user, so unless you’ve tried to age your bank details, you’ll probably be OK on that front.
This raises questions about whether FaceApp retains people’s photos even after they delete the app from their phone. The feature was briefly renamed “spark” before being removed. In August that year, FaceApp once again faced criticism when it featured “ethnicity filters” depicting “White”, “Black”, “Asian”, and “Indian”. Thomas Brewster Of course, given the developer company is based in St. Petersburg, the faces will be viewed and processed in Russia. The data in those Amazon data centers could be mirrored back to computers in Russia.
- His idea was that people would pay for an automated photo editor, so he added a paid-for subscription offer that would remove the FaceApp watermark and irritating ads, as well as add some premium features.
- Effectively, FaceApp was to replace PhotoShop editors with AI, Goncharov ventured.
- Photo illustration by Manuel Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images With millions of users enamored with the app, Goncharov quickly had to formulate a business plan.
He also notes that photos aren’t used for any commercial purposes. As for why the company stores faces on a server for 48 hours, the CEO says that users don’t want to have to re-upload a photo every time they apply a new filter. Now he tells Forbes about plans to calm the privacy storm. The new FaceApp terms and policy will likely remove references to the rights that the company claimed over people’s images, he says. The current terms grant FaceApp almost complete ownership over submitted faces, letting the company use, alter and sell the photo however it wants, with no compensation for the user.
FaceApp: Is The Russian Face-Aging App A Danger To Your Privacy?
It’s unclear how much access FaceApp employees have to those images, and Forbes hadn’t received comment from the company at the time of publication about just what it does with uploaded faces. This all turns out to be another of the Web’s many storm-in-teacup moments.
Take the most obvious example, and not only for its similar name. Facebook has nearly 2.5 billion monthly active users to FaceApp’s 80 million. It, too, applies facial recognition to photos that those users upload to its servers. It also actively pushed a VPN that allowed it to track the activity of anyone who installed it not just within the Facebook app but anywhere on their phone.
The app also featured an option to make users more attractive, but it did so by giving black users lighter skin. The founder, Yaroslav Goncharov, blamed this on “training set bias”. The 2017 app lets users edit photos to make themselves look older – or younger, or like a person of another gender – sometimes with hilarious effects.
Read this before using FaceApp — you give up more personal data than you realize on this Russian-made app
FaceApp uses “neural network” artificial intelligence technology to alter people’s faces with various filters. Users simply take or upload a photo from their phone and the app’s algorithms do the rest.
FaceApp adds that it deletes many photos from its servers within 48 hours and many users do not log in. “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,” TechCrunch reported. People can also use FaceApp without allowing the app to access their photo libraries by only editing photos they take via the app.
First there were concerns—which swiftly proved to be unfounded—that FaceApp wasn’t just accessing submitted photos but grabbing entire camera rolls from users’ phones. Then Russophobes fretted about where all Americans’ face data was going, leading Senator Chuck Schumer to call for an FBI investigation into the app. Like I said, this is round 2 of FaceApp getting the wrong kind of attention. In 2017 the app exploded into our feeds with expertly augmented images of what we all look like as another gender.
Does FaceApp steal your info?
The app confirmed that photo processing does in fact take place in the cloud, but that only images specifically selected by the user are uploaded, not the whole camera roll. The statement goes on to explain that FaceApp does accept requests if users want their data removed from the app’s servers.
You can make yourself look younger or older, swap your gender, or transform your expression. Goncharov does, however, disclose that the paying customer base was roughly 1%. And looking at the number of downloads (not active users) revealed on Google Play, there are in excess of 100 million.