If you’ve browsed social media at any point over the past few weeks – yep, I’m looking at you – you’ll no doubt have noticed a particular app that’s doing the rounds.
Of course, I’m talking about FaceApp, the editing app which allows you to upload selfies and change your appearance in a number of ways – most notably the old age filter.
After all, what isn’t there to love about an app which allows you to see decades into the future and get a sneak peek at what you’d look like with wrinkles, eye bags, and a saggy neck? Hmm…
Well, aside from the obvious trauma of seeing yourself as an ageing OAP well before your time, there appears to be some privacy concerns associated with the app as well. Including the notion that FaceApp might be sharing all your photos on your camera roll without your knowledge.
The app first went viral a couple of years ago in 2017 when people discovered they could make themselves look more attractive, younger, and like the opposite gender, but has become popular again for its new and improved old age filter.
A horde of users – from that guy you went to school with who you haven’t spoken to for years, to the Jonas Brothers and Terry Crews – have used the app, sharing hilarious pictures of themselves on social media in recent weeks.
But these users of the app could be sharing more than just the one picture with its creators, Russian tech company Wireless Lab, with app developer Joshua Nozzi warning on Twitter that FaceApp can upload photos beyond the ones that you provide to it directly.
BE CAREFUL WITH FACEAPP – the face aging fad app. It immediately uploads your photos without asking, whether you chose one or not.
As soon as I granted access to my photos it started listing them slowly a row at a time, almost like network delays.
I quickly hit Airplane Mode and it instantly listed them all, refusing to let me select any because I’m offline. IT’S UPLOADING ALL YOUR PHOTOS.
BE CAREFUL WITH FACEAPP – the face aging fad app. It immediately uploads your photos without asking, whether you chose one or not. https://t.co/LlqkDpy4ZO
— Joshua Nozzi 🇺🇸👨🏻💻 ⚣ (@JoshuaNozzi) July 16, 2019
However, this claim is not proven and it has been disputed by others, such as one security researcher who took to Twitter to voice his opinions on the matter.
Elliot Alderson downloaded the app and looked at its traffic, claiming it uploads the photo you have modified – and only that one – to its servers. He then criticised Nozzi for ‘creating an article on a speculation which is incorrect’ before telling people to verify their claims first.
So please, before yelling and spreading speculation based on nothing, verify! Ask to the correct people… 6/6
— Elliot Alderson (@fs0c131y) July 16, 2019
The chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation, David Vaile, warned people at the time not to use it, telling ABC News ‘it is impossible to tell from this what happens when you upload it, that is the problem’.
They ask for way more rights than they need to offer the service to you, [they] can remove the data from any effective legal protection regime, share it with almost anyone, and retain it indefinitely.
The licence is so lax. They can claim you agree they can send to wherever they like to whoever they like, and so long as there is some connection, [they can] do a lot of things with it.
This concern has been reiterated by lawyer Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, who warned users they are handing over a license to use ‘your photos, your name, your username, and your likeness for any purpose including commercial purposes’.
If you use #FaceApp you are giving them a license to use your photos, your name, your username, and your likeness for any purpose including commercial purposes (like on a billboard or internet ad) — see their Terms: https://t.co/e0sTgzowoN pic.twitter.com/XzYxRdXZ9q
— Elizabeth Potts Weinstein (@ElizabethPW) July 17, 2019
While the true repercussions of the app are not fully understood, TechCrunch reports it does upload the one photo to the cloud for processing and enables third party access through its ML libraries and routines, which is not made clear to the user.
UNILAD has reached out to Wireless Lab for comment.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).