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Guide To Faceapp's Privacy Concerns: What You Should & Shouldn't Be Worried About

Should you be concerned about giving this app your photos? It is complicated.

The AI-powered, Face changing app that is having its moment in the sun, FaceApp, has also come under fire. You have probably seen DJs, friends and more all make themselves look older as it they are trying to get the perfect mix. Many on the web have raised privacy concerns, some warranted and some not, over giving away your photos to some company. Consider the following before you make yourself or someone else look old.

1. It Is Russian:

Now this plays into the current geopolitical climate and the fear that an brutal, authoritarian regime like the Putin-led government will somehow gain access to your photos and use it for nefarious purposes. Founder Yaroslav Goncharov told TechCrunch that shouldn’t be a concern. “Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.” Their privacy terms leave things a little more vague and open to that changing in the future. “Your information collected through the Service may be stored and processed in the United States or any other country in which FaceApp, its Affiliates or Service Providers maintain facilities.” If an affiliate happens to be Russian or even Chinese, then that changes. 

That being said, if the Russian government demands to see your data in here, the company may be hard pressed to stop them.

2. It Downloads All Your Photo Gallery:

This came from one Tweet from someone who claimed this was happened. Further analysis by others shows this isn’t the case, unless you allow it. The company also denies this. “FaceApp performs most of the photo processing in the cloud. We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing,” explains Goncharov. “We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud."

3. Lose Rights To Photo You Send Forever:

Yes, you do. They own that photo for commercial purposes forever. As per their terms and conditions, “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.”

FaceApp allows you to upload a photo of anyone, so even if you don’t consent to having your photo on given to FaceApp, somebody else may do it anyway. If you are semi-famous, assume this has already happened.

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Facebook uses facial recognition to identify you in photos and most phone companies use it to scan your photos to help sort them for you.

4. Purposefully Vague Privacy Terms:

That is every tech company who wants to scale up quickly, get more investing, more users and not be sued by all of them. The terms give them and their affiliates rights to your photos and they may anonymize your information before it is disseminated. According to Goncharov, they “don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.”

The privacy policy is a little more mixed in that regard. “We may share User Content and your information (including but not limited to, information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage data) with businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that FaceApp is part of, or that become part of that group (“Affiliates”). Affiliates may use this information to help provide, understand, and improve the Service (including by providing analytics) and Affiliates’ own services (including by providing you with better and more relevant experiences). But these Affiliates will honor the choices you make about who can see your photos.”

Also in the terms, if the company is sold (which often happens in tech), that new company will have access to everything in Faceapp.

“If we sell or otherwise transfer part or the whole of FaceApp or our assets to another organization….your information such as User Content and any other information collected through the Service may be among the items sold or transferred. You will continue to own your User Content. The buyer or transferee will have to honor the commitments we have made in this Privacy Policy.”

That makes it seem like a security company can’t buy this and create a facial recognition database without your knowledge, but that isn’t totally clear. They have to honor the current privacy agreement, but in the terms they write, "by using the Services, you agree that the User Content may be used for commercial purposes." This is meant to be primarily for advertising, but it could open different pathways.

5. It Is Going To Build A Database For Facial Recognition:

There is no evidence this is being done now. Most users don’t login to an account according to Goncharov, so many identifying points of data aren’t there with a photo. As previously mentioned, this likely isn’t being done now and they do claim to delete your photo when requested, but we have seen that dance before. If somebody buys the company, then this may be possible.

The app went viral in 2017 for making your selfies look a little nicer. Now it is back. It probably isn’t doing anything nefarious now, but it could happen in the future. We upload thousands of photos to Facebook and Instagram without a thought and those two companies have helped fuel genocides and mass murder. FaceApp is here to change your Face now, but we will see what it does in the future.

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