Virtually aging your face has gone viral, but it isn’t the first time we’ve seen this app. FaceApp initially went viral 2 years ago with its face-morphing capabilities. Now, it’s taking social media by storm again with the ability to make you look older (or younger, but who cares about that right now?). The results represent an eery shadow of the potential future. As always, this newfound popularity has led to closer inspection and sparked some debate over privacy concerns. A Russian-based company develops the app which only heightens the discussion.

How Does It Work?

Once you select a photo and a filter, FaceApp morphs the photo with impressive results. You can see new hairstyles, aging, and more within seconds. The magic happens in the background. The app goes beyond just applying filters and actually morphs the photo itself. FaceApp uploads the selected photo to its cloud servers.  Those cloud servers do the heavy lifting and send the edited photo back to your device.

FaceApp Hangs Onto Your Photos

Once the process is completed, the original photo “might” remain on FaceApp’s servers (AWS and Google Cloud). According to FaceApp, the servers store photos to improve performance and save bandwidth. FaceApp told Tech Crunch, “Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.”

Broad Terms of Use

Many apps require you to agree to the Terms of Service (that you probably didn’t read). Typically, this grants the developer permission to use your personal information or photos in various ways. Using Facebook grants them permission to “use your name and profile picture and information about actions you have taken on Facebook next to or in connection with ads, offers, and other sponsored content.” FaceApp’s Terms of Service reach much farther.

“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.”

Now What?

Once your photos are uploaded, it’s out of your hands, and FaceApp can do whatever they want with the images. A Democratic Senator already sent a letter to the FBI and FTC requesting further investigation. He questions whether safeguards exist to protect sensitive personal information. Some conspiracies have started theorizing how to use the photos to train facial recognition algorithms. We don’t know what FaceApp is doing with photos they keep. Many other apps engage in similar practices regarding photo storage and licensing. Consequently, you should be cautious with any apps or online services that request access to your photos. Or not. Maybe they’re just building a library of faces for a new version of Guess Who?. FaceApp Guess Who

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