There is no doubt that a lot of us folks want to see exactly what the near (or far) feature has got in store for our earthly existence.
This is where apps like FaceApp have given people an opportunity to see how they would like in the future when their bones are rusty and they themselves are old.
FaceApp came onto the scene sometime in 2017.
Back then it did not get much attention.
At least not enough to have media outlets like this one write about it.
But now it is back.
FaceApp has resurfaced in the last couple of months and can now legitimately be called a popular phone app.
Millions of online consumers all around the world are making use of the app and its old-age photo filter in order to add some years to their current visage.
With that said, apps like FaceApp have a tendency to offer us way more than we bargain for while letting us have a glimpse of what the upcoming years have in store.
What we mean to say is that just because apps like FaceApp have the ability to show us what we would look like at some future date, such apps clearly do not make users of the app any wiser, especially when it comes to matters such as their online security and privacy.
In simpler terms, the rise of apps such as FaceApp and others should make us think about all the privacy-related problems they can cause.
In fact, we don’t need to do that since via recent developments we already know what harm apps like FaceApp can do to its users.
We will talk more about that in a later section of this guide.
For now, you should have no problems in asking yourself:
What can an AI-enabled app like FaceApp do with a gigantic image archive of all the people who use its app and let it scan their photos and faces?
Not scared enough already?
Then read on.
So what is FaceApp and how does it work?
As mentioned just now, FaceApp made an official appearance on Google Play Store sometime in January 2017 and it did storm the mobile world to some extent.
It might come as a surprise to some that a Russian company developed FaceApp.
That company goes by the name of Wireless Lab and it is the company that FaceApp should thank for making the app not only an interesting one but also a worldwide phenomenon.
Apparently, the FaceApp makes use of neural networks, an artificial intelligence technique, in order to edit user images.
All that the user has to do is to upload a photo of himself/herself or even someone else’s photo or image.
And guess what?
With the help of nothing but a simple click on a simple button, the app shows you what you would look like when people around you start calling you old.
It turns out, the newly-invented age filter is actually the most popular photo filter in any given app.
However, apps like FaceApp have a lot more to offer in terms of different image filters to users.
Users are free to tap into any other kind of photo filter but for one reason or another, people are only using the age filter of such apps.
Mobile apps that allow users to use filters on their images offer different filters such as,
- Wearing black sunglasses
- Shifting your gender
- Changing hair color
There are lots of other examples of what apps like FaceApp can really do.
In terms of pure potential, for apps like FaceApp, the sky is truly the limit.
If you think about, apps like FaceApp are a great way to have a little bit of fun after a long day of work.
Most of all, the app is totally free to download and use.
Perhaps that is the reason why FaceApp currently has a 4.5 rating on Google Play Store.
That sounds even more impressive if you consider the fact that more than 1 million people have rated the app on Google Play Store.
Now, even though we have said that the app is absolutely free, FaceApp also has a premium version.
However, this is a different type of premium version.
It is different in the sense that it rid the application of ads.
In the free version, you will get bombarded with advertisements which will not benefit you 95 percent of the time.
So purchase the premium version if you do not want to stare at ads every time you want to edit a given photo.
The premium version of the app also allows users to unlock various cool-looking features.
So go get that Pro account if you like you could do with an extra amount of FaceApp feature.
FaceApp Pro account comes with bonus features such as,
- Mix & match styles
- Filter updates
- Full-size filters
There is lots more to do in the Pro version of FaceApp so go give it a good try.
What about privacy? Does using an app like FaceApp hurt my privacy?
By now, you should be clear that FaceApp is a mobile application that allows you to see yourself as an old human being.
Then there is the FaceApp Challenge.
This challenge requires the user to post a photo of himself/herself using the FaceApp aging filter.
Once you have taken the picture, the challenge requires you to post that photo of you (or more precisely, your wizened and old self) on the internet.
What’s the point?
Well, the challenge expects you to make everyone laugh looking at the old you.
Once that is done, you are free to count the number of likes that you get with the help of the FaceApp.
And then what?
Then you move on with your life.
And that is it.
However, in the world of the internet, can you just really move on after posting your picture on the internet for a challenge in order to make everyone laugh?
Well, we don’t know.
Perhaps the more important question that we should all ask is:
Are we really sure that you are only uploading your photo to the internet so that people can have some fun?
As it turns out, this isn’t all that the Russian FaceApp app can do.
It can do a lot more.
This is a good time to share a motto as well.
It’s not really a motto.
Just an observation a few brilliant people made when they tried to understand how the likes of Google and Facebook had managed to offer their greatest products for free to so many people and for so many years.
And that motto is.
If a given online product is offered to you for free then you are definitely the product.
Some feel it is just a motto.
But it is not.
It says a lot more about how technology companies of today have used people’s private data in order to make money and gain recognition.
Of course, it is also possible that you might fall into another universe where governments all over the world want their citizens to delete apps like FaceApp from their mobile devices.
What would you do in such a world?
Well, you do not have to think too hard as the Washington Post had this to say about FaceApp and what it means to the privacy of its users.
What readers need to understand here is that FaceApp is just a mobile app that has the ability to map the user’s face with great detail.
You also have to take into consideration the fact that apps like FaceApp are sending a ton of user data to the cloud.
Now, when a piece of data ends up in the cloud, there is no telling on how long it will stay there.
Most of the time, you can safely say that your data in the cloud stays in the cloud for an indefinite period of time.
This is precisely why we feel that FaceApp users really need to think hard before allowing the app to have access to their mobile phone’s camera roll.
There is no telling that FaceApp may be downloading a given user’s entire image album secretly and sending it to certain country-specific servers.
We don’t say that because we hate FaceApp or the way it is gained a lot of popularity.
We say that because if you look at the history of free apps that make their way on platforms such as Google Play Store, you will see that free apps have made a bit of a reputation of sending user data to their sister companies or even to third-party companies in exchange for a hefty sum of money.
Is there anything that makes FaceApp different from those kinds of free apps?
Well, someone probably asked a similar question to the CEO of the company (a Russian company) that developed FaceApp, Yaroslav Goncharov, who stated that the company stored the photos that users uploaded to the app on the company’s own servers in order to save a lot of bandwidth in case they applied a multiple number of servers.
He further said that the company deleted the photos not long after.
But is the CEO of a Russian company behind FaceApp telling us the truth?
We don’t know.
What we do know is that there is no way for the user or anyone else to know whether or not FaceApp or the Russian company behind it is really harvesting user data.
We don’t know if FaceApp is storing user data on servers which are present only in Russia.
Again, the FaceApp is free to download and use.
Moreover, it comes to us straight for Russia.
That’s not a racist comment but the fact is, the United States of America and Russia have never been the best of buddies at any time in history.
So you really need to think twice about using FaceApp on your mobile device.
So is FaceApp indeed infringing your privacy?
You do not need us to tell you that any verdict on this issue will be an ill-informed one.
Since no one has any ideas on what happens once the users are done with uploading their photos to FaceApp servers by clicking various buttons, there is no way to answer that question.
Does FaceApp really delete all the user photos after a short period of time for good?
If they do, then does that mean they also do not harvest anything from the images before they actually delete the images?
There is no doubt about the fact that a large portion of people who own a smartphone device upload photos to all sorts of companies and their servers all the time.
So why is the risk of anything bad happening to their content greater in the case of FaceApp?
Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that people are more concerned about FaceApp using their data in malicious ways than they are about Google or Facebook even though both those technology companies probably suck up way more data than FaceApp.
Again, the simple problem here is that FaceApp comes from the other side of the Pacific.
It comes from Russia.
And Americans do not have a particularly friendly perception of Russia.
In our opinion, you do not need to concern yourself with whether or not FaceApp is truly from Russia and whether or not it is using your data in a safe and responsible manner.
What you need to do is to start your journey by being on the safe side.
And what is the safe side here?
Well, the safe side in this situation is definitely to not submit any kind of information to any mobile app company that you do not know.
Only you have the capability to competently protect your private life.
So get to it.
Should I uninstall FaceApp then?
Before we answer that question, allow us to give you some more information on the matter.
Elliot Alderson, a cyber-security researcher of French Origin, did find the time and the energy to investigate FaceApp claims about how it uses consumer data.
Elliot found that the FaceApp app actually did not store any other kind of photos or images other than the ones that the user himself/herself uploads to the app.
Another security researcher on the iOS platform, Will Strafach, actually defended FaceApp as he had the will to carry out some security tests of his own.
Then he tweeted about his findings.
In the tweet, he mentioned that he tried to replicate the issue that some people were talking about regarding FaceApp.
He mentioned that he could not see any kind of activity which would indicate that FaceApp was uploading all of the user’s photos to remote servers.
So what does that mean?
That means, there is a high chance that FaceApp does not store your data.
It only collects data that it needs to filter the photos that users upload to its servers.
As the company has mentioned recently, it does delete user images inside 24 hours after the user uploads the photos to the company’s servers.
Moreover, it is also highly likely that FaceApp does not sell user information for profit to third-party companies.
FaceApp on the recent privacy issue
The company did come out with an official response the other day.
Because of that, the company said, it would like to provide a couple of points which would explain the basics of how the company used user data.
FaceApp then mentioned that the company may store a given user’s uploaded image in the cloud.
And the primary reason for doing that is to increase performance and handle the traffic.
The company essentially wants to make sure that FaceApp users do not have to upload a given image each and every time they want to perform an edit operation on the photo.
The majority of the images that users upload to the company’s servers actually get deleted from the company’s servers inside 48 hours from the date the user uploads them.
FaceApp also mentioned that it accepts requests from users who wanted the company to remove all of their data from their servers.
Furthermore, FaceApp mentioned, its customer support team had been overloaded.
Even then, the company said, it prioritized and valued user privacy.
Then the response mentioned that users who want their requests to get processed quickly should make requests within the FaceApp mobile application by,
- First, hitting the Settings button
- Then tapping the Support option
- And then hitting the Report A Bug option
- The company also wants the user to make sure that he/she uses the word PRIVACY in the sent message’s subject line.
On that note, the company’s official response did mention that the user interface of this section of the app needed some work and its engineers were hard at work in improving it.
Apart from that FaceApp mentioned that the company performs most of the work involved with processing a photo in the cloud.
The company only uploads the photo to its cloud that the user himself/herself uploads for the purposes of editing.
More specifically, the company does not transfer any other photos or images from the user’s device to the cloud.
FaceApp also mentioned that almost all of the FaceApp features are readily available to users without the need for logging in to the app.
Moreover, users can only log in to the app from the settings menu.
Consequently, over 99 percent of the users who have downloaded the app and use the app, do so without logging in.
Therefore, FaceApp does not have any kind of access to any kind of user data which could identify a given user.
FaceApp also mentioned in the response that it did not share or sell user data with any kind of third-party company.
Finally, the company mentioned that even though it had the core of its Research and Development team located inside Russia, it did not transfer user data to Russia.
In concluding remarks, the company commented on perhaps the most common privacy concern from its user base.
Did the company upload all of the user’s photos from the user’s gallery to the company’s servers after gaining access permission to the photos from the user?
FaceApp mentioned it did no such thing.
The official response noted that the company only uploaded the photo that the user selected for processing.
FaceApp also said that users could check these facts on their own by making use of many freely available sniffing tools on the web.
Regardless, you need to protect your privacy.
Even though the response from FaceApp was comprehensive and pretty well put, we would not advise users to simply trust the app.
While the question of whether or not FaceApp uses your data for purposes other than photo editing is still in the air, there is no reason for you to sit still and let one thing happen after the other in order to get a convincing answer to the above-mentioned privacy question.
What you need to do right now is to take proper precautions.
First, you need to follow up on what the company says about its app.
Mainly, you need to contact the company’s support team.
Ask the team to completely erase your data from the company’s servers.
Again, you do have the option of doing that from inside the mobile app.
Just go to Settings and then to Support and then to Report A Bug.
From there just put the word Privacy in the provided subject line and start typing.
For all we know, FaceApp may not only be uploading images of you to its servers but it may also be tracking your activities and your location via your mobile’s GPS system and other such features.
Use a VPN service to combat that problem.
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