FaceApp Raises Privacy Concerns for Smartphone Users

The app is allowing users to "age" photos, but it is also raising privacy questions

Social media users have been going crazy over a new app that allows people to “age” themselves, but privacy groups are encouraging people to know how the app can use their data before they join in on the trend.

FaceApp, the service that is allowing social media users to get a glimpse of what they will look like as older adults, has been downloaded over 100 million times on iPhones in recent weeks, and is also exceedingly popular in the Google Play store. With that newfound popularity however, there are concerns about the privacy of its users.

That’s because the Artificial Intelligence-based engine that drives the app depends on biometric data derived from each photo it uses, and that data isn’t processed on your phone, but rather by a service based in the cloud.

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“If you are going to choose to do it and you are going to give away the information, that’s kind of the risk you are going to take,” smartphone user Andrew Dimitriou said. “At the same time, it’s not safe for people to be getting other people’s information like that.”

Another concern is growing that the data collected from photos could be stored and used by a foreign government, as FaceApp’s developer is based in Russia.

FaceApp’s developer, Wireless Labs, says most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours of the upload date. The company says that it accepts requests from users who want to remove all their data from the servers, but the company’s support team is overloaded with requests, according to a spokesman.

With those revelations, users are now asking how they can take part in the app’s fun aging challenge, while protecting at least some of their personal data.

First off, users are advised to turn down the free trial offered by the app, which would give the developer a name to tie to the biometric data it uses to “age” photos. Users should also decline to give the app access to their photo libraries, instead just giving the app access to the phone’s camera for a quick selfie.

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