Technology

Viral FaceApp challenge and data privacy: Is it safe to upload your photos on FaceApp?

Viral FaceApp challenge and data privacy: Is it safe to upload your photos on FaceApp?

Suddenly everyone including your 12-year old cousin is looking older by 60 years, and it's all thanks to FaceApp.

The app went viral in the region and across the globe this past week, with a simple face mapping AI trick which the developer says uses neural networks to create transformations on photos. From adding smiles or beards and swapping genders or hair colours to looking 60 to 70 years older, the app can pretty much change everything about the way you look in a very realistic way. 

Celebrities and regular folks alike have been sharing images on Instagram and Twitter of what their faces would look like in 60 years; and let's be honest, the 'old' selfies look extremely realistic.

However, amidst all the buzz, there is a concern rising among users about data privacy. The app's detailed privacy statement has many disclaimers attached to how or where the user data can be used.

Cloud or no cloud

One particular user, Joshua Nozzi, got the attention of FaceApp's developers with a concern he raised. Nozzi, a developer, alleged that as soon as he gave permission to access photos on the app, "it started listing them slowly a row at a time, almost like network delays."

He quickly enabled Airplane Mode, Nozzi said in his tweet, all of the images appeared instantly. He couldn’t select any of the photos because he was offline. He speculated this could be a sign that FaceApp is uploading your photos without you giving express permission to do so.

FaceApp responded to his highly shared tweet at the end of an official statement published by TechCrunch saying, "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."

However, FaceApp did say in its official statement to mutiple media outlets including Forbes that the editing is done on a cloud server and not on the device itself like some other photo editing apps.

"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", FaceApp's statement reads. 

None of all this talk however stopped leading celebrities and influencers from sharing hilarious senior versions of themselves, such as Gordon Ramsay, the Jonas brothers or Drake.

Not stored for long

While on the cloud, FaceApp also said that the photos uploaded were deleted within 48 hours - why the delay you may ask. FaceApp's team attributes it to "performance and traffic".

The statement says, "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."

How much access should you give?

Ideally speaking, none whatsoever. However, the fun of doing this cannot be ignored either. In this case, deny permission to access photos from your gallery for the app to edit. Take a nice selfie, edit that and post your transformation.

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Messi Image Credit: Twitter/@am_randysing

Once the fad dies out, and you feel like you don't use the app anymore delete it and move on - you have now seen your future. A mistake most people make is one of negligence where we let countless apps stay on our device, most of which we don't use, but these might be recording your activity, getting access to your data etc. without your knowledge.

Perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide

Take FaceApp for example. Their privacy terms read as such, "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 is not the only app that has these permissions is something all users should know and remember. Any and every app on your phone collects and stores data daily, albeit its features are not as in your face as FaceApp is.

In its statement, FaceApp continues, 99 per cent of their users do not log in to use the age filter. According to them, as long as you are not logged in, they have no access to information identifying users.

So, in short, FaceApp is only as or just as dangerous as any other app on your phone. Stay safe and get social.