If you’ve been on Facebook in the past couple of days, your timeline has likely been flooded with photos of your friends looking like older versions of themselves. It’s all thanks to FaceApp, a popular AI-powered app that allows users to upload photos of themselves and use different filters to manipulate them.
In addition to the “old” filter, users can use FaceApp to see themselves as the opposite gender, with different hairstyles, with different facial expressions and more. Even celebrities have gotten in on the craze.
Check out Carrie Underwood and her husband, Mike Fisher, as senior citizens in the photo posted to the singer’s Instagram account:
Although the app may seem like harmless fun, it raises serious privacy concerns.
The app, which is owned by St. Petersburg-based Wireless Lab and has been around since 2017, may upload users’ photos from their laptop or other device to the cloud without their permission. In addition, the system may be overriding settings and giving the app access to a user’s camera roll without their permission.
In response to concerns about its permissions and activities, FaceApp has issued a statement. The company says that they only upload a photo selected by a user, and that they never transfer any other images from their phone to the cloud.
Further, when an image is uploaded to the cloud, FaceApp maintains that it is typically deleted from their servers within 48 hours. Because 99% of users don’t log in, the app doesn’t have access to identifying information.
They promise that they do not sell any user information to third parties and that user data is not transferred to Russia, despite the fact their core R&D team is located in Russia. You can read their statement in full here.
If you would like to have your image removed from the app, you can click “Settings,” then “Support.” Use the “Report a bug” function and put the word “Privacy” on the subject line. FaceApp’s statement said they are giving priority to these requests but are “currently overloaded.”
If you choose to use the app, you should do so with caution, according to experts.
“People should be savvy about when apps and memes and games are encouraging everyone to engage in the same way,” Karen O’Neill, a tech consultant, told The Washington Post. “It puts the data in a vulnerable state that becomes something that can train facial recognition and other kinds of systems that may not be intended the way people are using it.”