Popular age-filter app FaceApp is back, provoking a mixture of delight and revulsion among those using it to transform themselves in older avatars. FaceApp uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to change your selfies, from age or even switching sex. FaceApp has recently gone viral again, with thousands of users posting aged self-portraits to Twitter, using the #FaceAppChallenge hashtag. And the FaceApp challenge is proving so popular it is even attracting A-list celebs including chef Gordon Ramsay, songsmith Sam Smith and rapper Drake.
However the terms of the Russian-owned app have led industry experts to voice their concerns over what FaceApp could actually be doing with your selfies.
When users submit a photo to FaceApp to transform, it is added to the picture app’s servers.
And it is far from clear what is happening when it does.
FaceApp has to select and upload the users’ photo to ensure that it can be changed.
The changes use FaceApp’s powerful AI program, which run on its servers, and so the photo must make be given over to the app.
But you might be giving over more than you realise. Numerous people have pointed to the fact that those photos can be used by FaceApp – and not just to make you look different.
The terms give the app the ability to use those photos in just about any way, without giving anything back to the users who first created them, the app makes clear.
FaceApp’s terms and conditions 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 in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.”
This means the photos uploaded to FaceApp might seem initially private, but that they could be used in very public ways.
Such terms are fairly standard within such apps, and it is required that such an app will have some access to photos to fulfil its functions.
However the fact so little is known about FaceApp, combined with the fact it is developed in Russia, have led to concerns over its use.
Others are also worried about the fact that the app appears to have access to all of your photos when it lets you choose which you want to adjust.
A viral tweet has reportedly claimed when users open FaceApp, photos start being uploaded onto the internet.
But on iOS, the app actually takes advantage of a feature inside the iPhone’s software: though all of your photos will come up as options, the picture won’t actually be handed over to the app until users are chosen which they want, and all others will remain hidden.
Privacy researchers digging into the hidden parts of the app have claimed there is nothing to indicate that FaceApp is taking all of an iOS user’s photos.
FaceApp is actually quite an old app and many of these concerns were first discussed when it first appeared in 2017.
But despite feature updates and other changes, the fundamental thrust of the way the app uses those photos does not appear to have changed.