FaceApp is a mobile application for iOS and Android developed by Russian company Wireless Lab which uses neural network technology to automatically generate highly realistic transformations of faces in photographs. The app can transform a face to make it smile, look younger, look older, or change gender.
The app was created in 2014 and went viral in 2017 when users were obsessed with adding smiles to their photos or seeing a gender transformation of themselves. This week, the #FaceAppChallenge brought the app back to life and it seems as though everybody is giving it a try. Rather than smiles or gender-switch, this time it’s the Aging filter.
Many people have been wondering if the app is safe to use after learning that the app was created in Russia. Many social media users are in a frenzy wondering if FaceApp is accessing all of their photos and uploading them to its servers. But preliminary reports indicate that the app is indeed safe to use and that users’ photos are not being stolen or stored. A Forbes report said:
FaceApp isn’t taking photos of your face and taking them back to Russia for some nefarious project
However, there are still some other concerns plaguing some FaceApp users. Once a user uploads a photo to the app, the photo is stored on a server- and this is where some people seemed to panic. Are photos being stored on a server based in Russia? The answer appears to be “no.” According to Forbes:
A cursory look at hosting records confirmed to Forbes that this was true, the servers for FaceApp.io were based in Amazon data centres in the U.S. And, as noted by Alderson, the app also uses third party code, and so will reach out to their servers, but again these are based in the U.S. and Australia.
Are there any Privacy violations with FaceApp? Highly unlikely. As with any application, there are fairly standard concerns with any given user’s privacy. While nothing with FaceApp is super alarming, users should be aware that the app stores metadata from any photos that are uploaded. This is the case with several other apps that you have probably been using for years.
FaceApp has responded to the concerns of its users and has confirmed that photos are only stored for about 48 hours. You can read the company’s full statement below:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.
6. 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. … 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.
Talking about hacking threats, as with anything, there is always the possibility that hackers could get into the system and that is also a concern that’s been brought up online. But thus far here is no evidence that FaceApp has been hacked or that there is any immediate hacking threat.
The terms and conditions are long and confusing but they do say they reserve the right to use your image in promotions, advertising and even billboards. But they did also say they delete the image after 48 hours so chances of you becoming a cult billboard superstar in Russia are slim.
So right now, we can affirm that there’s no need to be panicking about data privacy on FaceApp, YET. Thinking ahead of FaceApp, other Image Processing platforms and cloud stores, are our data really safe? Share your thoughts with us.