Beware FaceApp Users! Giving Your Selfie to Russians Is in Every Way a Bad IdeaWeb & Apps

July 18, 2019 16:30
Beware FaceApp Users! Giving Your Selfie to Russians Is in Every Way a Bad Idea

(Image source from: Mashable India)

With advanced technology, everything is just a click away now - outrageous wrongdoing or brief enlightenment.

Right now, FaceApp, made by Russian developer is on mania, mostly among millennials and so far it garnered over 150 million users. This app lets you take a selfie and then you can do all sorts of things thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) - see how you would look with a different hairstyle, different eye color, what you may look like when you enter old age, if you were a Hollywood star, whether growing a beard will change how you look and all sorts of similar questions.

This is free to download the app, with in-app purchases for additional filters. It is available on Android phones and the Apple iPhone. All bases covered then. The numbers are staggering though. More than 100,000,000 users have downloaded this just on the Google Play Store for Android phones.

But the question is if anyone has bothered to read the terms and conditions of the application? Yes, that same lengthy document with lots of text that we usually simply skip by tapping on “agree”.

The FaceApp terms start kinda harmlessly. “Our Services may allow you and other users to create, post, store and share content, including messages, text, photos, videos, software and other materials (collectively, “User Content”). User Content does not include user-generated filters. Except for the license you grant below, you retain all rights in and to your User Content, as between you and FaceApp. Further, FaceApp does not claim ownership of any User Content that you post on or through the Services,” it reads. Great then. I own what I share with the app and what I share via the app. Victory for data privacy and data ownership. But hang on.

“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. When you post or otherwise share User Content on or through our Services, you understand that your User Content and any associated information (such as your [username], location or profile photo) will be visible to the public,” is the subsequent piece of text.

We are not for even a moment alleging that FaceApp developers intend to sell your photos or have any malicious intent. But the wording of the terms and conditions for using the app are a concern. There is nothing to stop the app developers from selling your photo to another party or set of parties. It can then be used for pretty much everything from advertising and training AI algorithms, somewhere in the world.

This Russian company has the right to do whatsoever it is they want to do with their photos if they wish to, and you cannot revoke this right. You can’t simply delete your profile from the app as an opt-out method. Once your photos and selfies are on the FaceApp servers, you’ve lost the right to govern them. Even though you own them, at least on paper.

No wonder then that regulators in the United States are asking the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct federal national security & privacy investigation into the Russia-based company that runs FaceApp.

You may or may not know, but your priceless data is helping someone else earn bucketloads of money - your photos, your likes, your location, your browsing history are all a small part of the larger chain. It is often said that once you put something online, it can never truly be erased.

By Sowmya Sangam

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