FaceApp: are the privacy concerns real?
Experts have expressed concerns over the security of the data reaped by the app from the user’s phone in the process of providing an aged picture of oneself.
There’s a new buzz on the Internet. Everyone is rushing to take up the now trending FaceApp challenge in which a photograph can be visualised with added years using FaceApp’s old-age filter.
The huge popularity of the face-altering app surged with photographs of celebrities processed through the app making it to the media.
Experts have expressed concerns over the security of the data reaped by the app from the user’s phone in the process of providing an aged picture of oneself. The app is owned by a developer company based in St Petersburg in Russia.
However, the owners of the app have sought to allay the concerns, saying that its servers delete the data stored in the cloud within 48 hours.
Many online services that we use have similarly drafted broad terms which give them broad rights to let companie use the personal data in any manner they deem fit," Sinha said.
The issue of FaceApp uploading the complete photo album from a user’s device also lacks clarity.
“The second issue was that even after a user had denied access to FaceApp on iOS, the app could still be used to select and upload photos. This is actually an iOS feature where users have the ability to block an app from full camera access but can still upload individual photos. The confusion here perhaps suggests that iOS can do a better job in informing users how blocking access to the camera roll works. The bigger concern that security researchers have pointed out is that instead of uploading only selected photos, it is actually uploading the entire camera roll on its servers. FaceApp has clarified some of these issues in a public statement, but this point remains unclear,” Amber Sinha told Asiaville.
Meanwhile, FaceApp founder Yaroslav Goncharov provided a statement to the media to settle the concerns raised around the issues of privacy in using the massively popular app.
"We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud...We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn't upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date,” Goncharov said in the statement.
There are also experts who feel that the current sense of insecurity around FaceApp is not limited to it and is common to all other applications in use.
"The reason there's a moral panic about FaceApp is not because it is somehow more unethical than other apps, but because it is made by a Russian company and there's a wave of Russophobia in the USA currently. It's terms of service are very similar to those in most apps to which you provide data, including those operated by US-based companies like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook," said Pranesh Prakash, Fellow, Centre for Internet and Society.
Secondly, this panic seems to indicate that people are incapable of making choices for themselves, and prefer paternalism where the government or other companies (like Google or Apple) make choices for them about what apps they may use, he added.
FaceApp, after its launch, first went viral in 2017 and it gained more than 80 million active users within a few months. Now, the so-called FaceApp Challenge has brought the app back into the limelight.