FaceApp and Your Privacy: What Consumers, Developers, and Non-Hipsters Need to Know
A recent social media campaign, “#faceappchallenge” went viral last week and elevated the related application, FaceApp, to the top of iOS App Store charts in over 121 countries. The app, developed in 2017 as a subsidiary of the Russia-based startup company Wireless Lab, adds filters to a user’s photographs through artificial intelligence to show what the user would look like when she or he is older, younger, or displaying different facial features such as beards, mustaches, and more. As the app’s popularity surged, some opened their eyes to the “tiny print” related to using such apps, and many expressed concerns over FaceApp’s privacy features and data-collecting abilities.
FaceApp’s storage methods have also raised red flags; the app uploads pictures to a “cloud” rather than storing them locally. Wireless Lab claimed they use this technique to improve overall app performance and traffic issues, and that the app deletes “most” images within forty-eight hours of their upload. On the flip-side, consumers have been quick to point out that most does not mean all. Many wondered what Wireless Lab does with the pictures remaining in the cloud after the forty-eight hour mark? Its founder, Yaroslav Goncharov, repeatedly denied sharing consumers’ personal information with the Russian government or other third party. He also stated that users may request that FaceApp delete their data via the “Report a Bug” function.
In conclusion, accusations that the app can access user photographs without permission, or that the app shares personal information with other third parties, appear to be unfounded. However, while it is unlikely that FaceApp is stealing entire camera “rolls” of photographs for commercial use, consumers should not consider the app risk-free. Other technology companies seeking to avoid the same negative PR should take precautions to keep their products out of the data privacy hot seat.
The Takeaway for Developers
If you want to go viral like FaceApp, without all the negative PR too, developers need to take heed.