If you’ve been on social media recently you’ll have noticed selfies galore of friends looking like their grandparents, or as members of the opposite sex, or with a Hollywood airbrush. The fun snaps were made possible by FaceApp, an app which applies AI filters on photos. Even celebrities were getting in on the FaceApp craze.
It is reminiscent of Microsoft’s How-Old.net site that launched n 2015. It would guess your age based on a selfie but it turned out to be the showcase for Microsoft’s facial recognition technology. Amazon followed in 2017 with its Rekognition API that was clouded in creepy controversy.
Now it’s FaceApp’s turn to cause a panic as facial recognition technology is getting the negative press it deserves, and people are starting to realize their data is wroth something. But the real reason everyone is having a breakdown about FaceApp is that it is based in Russia. The app also has a list of shady permissions of your photos. Threrefore, photos must be being sent to Russian spies who will use them to perform dark arts for all eternity. Before we know it, we’ll all be sentenced to hard labor in a gulag where we’ll look like our aged selfie in just a few days.
Don’t get me wrong. We are all about privacy here at get2Clouds, but the panic of FaceApp is missing the mark. The problem is not FaceApp. The problem is that our data is perfectly legally up for grabs by any app maker. People who happily click their days away on Facebook are suddenly upset about privacy because an app is based in Russia? American and Chinese companies do the same thing as FaceApp all the time. Why not get upset with them?
It is also important to point out that FaceApp might be a Russian company, but its servers are based in the US. It uses Amazon’s cloud. The scare is that Russians will now have some awesome facial recognition technology, but it could never be anything close Facebook whose facial recognition technology is quite frankly, terrifying, and it owes it all to millions upon millions of photos uploaded by users.
FaceApp’s terms of service is creepy but no more creepy than Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The real problem is that apps are allowed to ask for lots of unnecessary permissions and still be available on online stores. Focusing on privacy issues with this one app lets the entire structure of the industry off the hook.
FaceApp takes only the photo you ask it to manipulate. The company also says it deletes most images from its servers within 48 hours of uploading. We have no idea if that’s true though. If you want FaceApp to remove all of your data from its servers, you can send a request within the app, by going to Settings > Support > Report a bug and putting “Privacy” in the subject line.
And in future, before you download any app or pass over any of your personal info on or offline, do so with the awareness that your data is worth protecting.