Tuesday, 18 February, 2020

Is FaceApp an invasion of your privacy?

FaceApp Can Do Pretty Much Whatever They Want With Your Name & Face Just Quietly Is FaceApp an invasion of your privacy?
Adrian Cunningham | 18 July, 2019, 07:43

FaceApp, which uses AI to apply various effects to your face, including the viral old-age filter, has been trending the last few days, catapulting the app to the top spot as the #1 free app in Apple's App Store, and the top three in Google Play at the time of filing this report.

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More recently, it has faced scrutiny from the public over issues such as not clearly communicating that the app uploads images to the cloud rather than processing them locally on a user's device. This led some to worry that the app was uploading potentially sensitive photos to FaceApp's servers, but privacy experts have determined that this is not the case. While the company's core team is located in Russian Federation, the servers are located in the USA and Australia.

The first problem is that the app can access a user's gallery even if the access is denied.

The app also noted that all FaceApp's features are available without logging in and no data is sold or shared.

"Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date", the company said in a lengthy statement provided to TechCrunch addressing the privacy concerns.

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"Goncharov also confirmed that photos uploaded to the app are stored on the company's servers to save bandwidth if several filters are applied, but get deleted not long after".

Many app companies have wide-ranging terms of use to give them the option of monetizing the gathered data in the future, even if they don't yet know how they will, said Jennifer Whitson, associate editor of Surveillance & Society and an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo.

TechCrunch.com posted a response to the rumors from FaceApp saying that photos are all hosted in "the cloud" and data is not transferred to Russian Federation. "FaceApp, its Affiliates, or Service Providers may transfer information that we collect about you, including personal information across borders and from your country or jurisdiction to other countries or jurisdictions around the world".

As for FaceApp, the app grabs a photo only if you specifically select it to see your face change, security researcher and Guardian Firewall CEO Will Strafach said. We upload only a photo selected for editing.

"We want to make sure that the user doesn't upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation". Our support team is now overloaded, but these requests have our priority.

He noted that they have managed to develop a new technology by using neural networks to "modify a face on any photo while keeping it photorealistic". We are working on the better UI for that. Experts say concerned users should also take a look at other applications on their phone that may have permissions for more than they initially thought.