While SnapChat may have cornered the market initially, recently another app has been grabbing people’s attention. FaceApp is an app that uses filters to make you look older/like a Hollywood celeb/blonder/like a hipster/younger, or just about anything else you can imagine, and it’s gone viral.
The problem is, it seems like privacy is a concern, and that anyone who uses the app is essentially signing away the rights to their image. Plus, the apps creators are using the app to harvest metadata from all the pictures loaded.
The problem here is that what FaceApp is doing isn’t unique and if you took a closer look at the apps on your phone, you may be quite shocked to realise they are also farming data. Unlike when you play at Lucky Nugget Casino Canada and your information is kept private, most apps don’t offer the same security or assurances.
What FaceApp has however highlighted is just how troubling a seemingly harmless and fun app can be, and how standard tech practices are actually highly invasive.
Behind the mask
When anyone loads a photo onto the FaceApp that image is then loaded onto the Russian-owned companies servers, and a filter laid over it. This means that the photo is stored elsewhere and has left the ‘safety’ of your phone. And while there may not be evidence that the app has access to all the other photos on your phone, they don’t exactly make it clear that they’ll be saving whatever image you upload either.
In theory, the filters could be added on the device itself and the image doesn’t need to be downloaded onto a server, but according to the FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov the images are downloaded because they save bandwidth this way, especially if lots of people are bulk uploading images at the same time.
But once the photos are stored on the server, what happens next? According to Goncharov users can ask that they are deleted, but in truth, there is no proof that these requests are actually adhered to.
Same But Different
What’s interesting is that FaceApp has raised privacy concerns, largely based on the Russian spy theories, and companies like Facebook, Google and Instagram also retain images and a whole lot of other data about their users.
Yet we all tend to blithely load photos and post about everything we do on these platforms without a second thought, even after the Cambridge Analytica scandal…
What has caused concern with FaceApp however is the fact that when you accept the terms and conditions, you give them permission to use all your data, including your likeness in advertising material and for commercial purposes.
This means that the app is currently collecting hundreds upon thousands of images that could be used for just about anything in the future. Although they say they don’t sell data to third parties there is nothing stopping them from using the database themselves to fund other projects.
In the end, if you’re going to use any app, the best thing to do is read the T’s and C’s as the tech world seems to have unlocked a privacy minefield.