Unless you have been living under a rock lately or have just been unplugged from social media and TV, there is a new viral app for your smartphone called FaceApp.
But is FaceApp safe to use?
I’ll let you be the judge after I present to you the facts.
Your Personal Data is at Risk
I can fully understand the draw of a new fun app that will use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to alter the look of a photo of you and age it 15, 20 or more years.
Downloading and using a free app to get a glimpse of what you will look like years from now has got to be safe, right?
Do you remember the Facebook — Cambridge Analytica scandal?
This was a major political scandal in early 2018 that harvested the personal data of 87 million Facebook users without their permission while using a seemingly safe and fun app called This Is Your Digital Life.
The app was developed by Russian-born Aleksandr Kogan, a data scientist at Cambridge University in the UK.
Cambridge Analytica used this app as part of research in which several hundred thousand Facebook users would complete fun and safe survey.
Unknowing to the Facebook participants, this app was able to harvest their personal data from their profile page AND the personal data of EVERYONE that were either friends or following them.
This is why Facebook admitted to Congress that 87 million profiles were compromised.
The collected data was enough to create psychographic profiles on everyone.
This info was then used to target people based on where they lived and what political affiliation they followed, to post relevant political ads and memes in their newsfeed to sway political views.
FaceApp Has Similar Red Flags
There is a lot of buzz online that FaceApp is not as safe to use as is claimed, and for good reason.
No one is saying that this app is being used for nefarious reasons, but you have to be very skeptical of its use especially after reading the Terms of Service.
In a nutshell, you still own the content, meaning your picture. But by you using the app you are giving full, unreversable permission for the owners of
FaceApp to use your picture and data for anything they want to.
And guess what? FaceApp is owned by a Russian company.
FaceApp will harvest your location, IP address, and log file data for the purpose of aiming targeted ads toward you.
But what else?
Just in case you cannot read what the Terms of Service say between those two yellow highlights, I will type all of it below and break it up into smaller paragraphs so you can easily read it and absorb its meaning.
Terms of Service:
You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, 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.
Are You Sure You Want FaceApp?
Even though FaceApp has been around for about two years now in a smaller capacity before this worldwide re-launch, are you willing to trust a Russian company with your personal data that it will harvest from your smartphone and not use it for criminal doings or identity theft?
When confronted with these concerns, the owners of FaceApp said that users could request via email to have their photos deleted at any time.
But there is no way for people to know if it will be actually done and what about all of your personal data that was already harvested?
It has to make you wonder if there is something strange going on.
A Russian company in St Petersburg (not far from Moscow), gaining all this personal data you are giving full permission to do whatever they want with, all of a sudden being re-released before a major U.S. election?
Though this app is available through Apple and Google, how well was their vetting process?
If Facebook’s vetting process could be circumvented when Cambridge Analytica was used to target users for a political scam, how do we know Apple and Google are safe?
My advice to you is to not get or use this app if you haven’t already.
If you have used it, even though you can delete it if you didn’t create an account or email the FaceApp company and tell them to close your account, your personal data is already out there.
You can read more about it here.