Thanks to FaceApp, there’s been a wave of surreal images swirling the internet. The app quickly went viral after everyone became enthralled with a specific filter that lets you see what you’ll look like as a senior citizen.
There’s a scary side to all of this fun stuff; FaceApp is owned by a Russian company, and once you accept their terms you grant them access to the images on your phone, which are then sent to servers that can keep them and manipulate them for an undetermined amount of time.
— Gordon Ramsay (@GordonRamsay) July 16, 2019
This is my favorite part of faceapp’s terms of service. pic.twitter.com/iIwHqNAzoL
— Justin Reynolds (@justinsocial) July 17, 2019
FaceApp says that they delete most of their images from their servers within 48 hours. They also claim that while they’re originally from St. Petersburg, their base is located within the U.S., and that their data doesn’t travel overseas.
But FaceApp isn’t alone. Lots of apps, from the dime-store imposters to Facebook, pose similar privacy dangers. The good news is that they’re prompting conversations about data and internet privacy are just gaining traction, forcing us to rethink about the way we use social media and interact with people through the internet.
WIRED talked to Christine Bannan, consumer protection counsel at the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center. She said people give photos to lots of different apps. “I think this is probably getting attention because it’s Russian developers. But this is definitely not a unique FaceApp problem. FaceApp is part of a larger privacy problem.”
If you’re scared of FaceApp and are considering using one of the hundreds of rip-offs available on the Apple and Google Play store, take a minute to analyze the problem. All apps with these capabilities have access to your library, and most of them don’t come from verified sources. Even apps that are worth billions of dollars and have revolutionized the world come with their own set of dubious privacy policies. There is no escape from all of this except perhaps to not participate in social media.