Privacy concerns arise re: popular Russian-developed app

Thursday, July 18, 2019
 | 
Jody Brown, Steve Jordahl (OneNewsNow.com)

FaceAppAn app that's going viral allows people to see what they may look like when they get old – but users probably aren't aware of what they're giving up to use it.

FaceApp, which The Associated Press notes has had surges of viral popularity during its 2.5-year lifespan, uses artificial intelligence to transform an actual picture of a person into an older – or younger – version. It is reported to currently have more than 120 million active users worldwide.

In addition to this latest surge of popularity, it has drawn the attention of the ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Chuck Schumer, who says it could pose "national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens" because of its potential for mining user data. He has asked two federal agencies – the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission – to look into it.

The user agreement (below) also spells out conditions that most users probably don't take the time to read:

"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 and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you. When you post or otherwise share User Content on or through our Services, you understand that your User Content and any associated information (such as your [username], location or profile photo) will be visible to the public."

OneNewsNow spoke with Dan Gainor of MRC TechWatch, who opines that "all terms of service are scary."

But perhaps even more haunting is the fact that FaceApp was developed in Russia by Wireless Labs – which told TechCrunch that it may store users' photos in the cloud, but that "most" are deleted after 48 hours. That doesn't relieve Gainor's concern.

Gainor

"People should be more careful with their data online, should be more careful what apps they sign up for," warns Gainor. "They should be less naïve and more suspicious of the things that they see."

Gainor isn't alone in his concerns. Indeed, one tech writer warns that "essentially, once you download and use FaceApp, you're giving this Russian company the exclusive right to do whatever it desires with any photo you upload to the app. You might end up on a billboard somewhere in Moscow – but your face will most likely end up training some AI facial-recognition algorithm."

The worst part, adds Peter Kostadinov, is that the app's right is irrevocable – "meaning you can't just delete your profile … and expect Wireless Lab to stop using your content as it sees fit."

The CEO of FaceApp has responded to the rising privacy concerns stating, among other things, that even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.

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