Who would have thought the latest viral photo trend would become a matter of national security?
At first, FaceApp seemed like a bit of harmless fun: upload your image to a fun filter app, and watch it fast-forward 30+ years to when you’re silver-haired, wrinkled and look a lot like your grandparents.
The end-results are extremely realistic, and let’s face it, some of us don’t age well.
Naturally, it’s become the next big social media trend, dominating Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds. Everyone from Will Smith to the Jonas Brothers has uploaded their old age selfies to the ‘Face App’ and its popularity has continued to soar online.
As reported by Forbes, over 100,000 million people have downloaded FaceApp from Google Play.
Yet it seems very few users have queried where their images are being sent to and what the developers are planning to do with the information.
With an unprecedented level of uploads of user’s face and names, new information has suggested uploading to ‘FaceApp’ may be a massive data security risk.
So huge are the concerns, US Senator Chuck Schumer, has called for an FBI investigation into FaceApp after a chief security officer warned ‘FaceApp was developed by Russians’.
BIG: Share if you used #FaceApp:
Because millions of Americans have used it
It’s owned by a Russia-based company
And users are required to provide full, irrevocable access to their personal photos & data pic.twitter.com/cejLLwBQcr
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 18, 2019
Schumer wondered if the ‘personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hands of the Russian government.’
In an official letter to the FBI, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked for ‘safeguards’:
I write today to express my concerns regarding FaceApp, a mobile software application headquartered in St Petersburg, Russia, that could pose national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.
In the age of facial recognition technology as both a surveillance and security use it is essential that users have the information they need to enure their personal and biometric data remains secure, including from hostile foreign nations.
Schumer also issued a video statement to Twitter further warning Americans that ‘what seems like a benign social media fad may actually not be benign at all.’
FaceApp’s makers are a Russian company called Wireless Lab, which uses artificial intelligence technology to edit your photos. Once you upload your image the makers a free to use the image however they want.
As tech expert Peter Kostadinov suggested ‘you might end up on a billboard somewhere in Moscow.’ A scary thought.
According to FaceApp’s terms and conditions (which you most likely haven’t read):
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 …
The security concerns do put a dampener on the viral social media trend.
Social media users tend to fall into two camps: the insufferably frequent uploaders, or the cynical Luddites who are still operating off a Nokia 3310.
Hmm. We think the latter may be on to something…
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L’Oréal Blackett is a freelance journalist, broadcaster, and presenter with a lot of hair and a lot to say. A former digital magazine editor covering women’s issues and local news, she now works for a range of media publications including BBC Radio Manchester, Bumble and of course, UNILAD.