FaceApp aged photo trend: fun and games or risk to your privacy?

by Ugnius Kiguolis - -

The viral FaceApp raises questions regarding users' privacy and relations to the Russian government

FaceApp may get access to your personal data

The application making people look older has already caused a viral sensation all over the social media.[1] Everyone from Gordon Ramsay and the Jonas Brothers to your classmates or colleagues have posted their older looks on Facebook or Instagram, and other social media platforms recently.

However, rare of the FaceApp fans have read the Privacy policy of the app saying that the application can get access to your pictures, camera roll, and even the storage. Some researchers claim that, by downloading the application, users can voluntarily reveal their information to Russian artificial intelligence and give access to their face and name for the government since the program is developed, or at least maintained, in Saint-Petersburg.[2]

The hot question here is what happens when you use the app to take photos and age them. When you upload your photo, or you age your friend or a family member, all faces go to the server of FaceApp. More than 100 million people have downloaded this application from the official Apple or Google Store, and now FaceApp is one of the most popular apps in various countries across the world.[3]

Experts reveal FaceApp relations with Russia 

The photo-editing application is developed by the Wireless Lab based in Saint-Petersburg. The head of this company is Yaroslav Goncharov, ex-employee of Yandex. This is the multinational corporation related to some shady activities regarding data tracking and spying, especially in Europe.[4] This is why the relation to Russia raises the most significant concern.

People in the United States have already heard about the propaganda war and the involvement of the Russian government.[5] Although the actions of bad actors in Russia should not make every Russian-based company dangerous, FaceApp includes names, photos, and other information that when misused or even leaked can cause serious issues.

There are numerous issues related to the FaceApp

There are a few specific points about FaceApp and its requests to access the information on users' device:

  • contents of the USB storage;
  • the ability to delete or modify those contents;
  • full access to the network;
  • network connection information;
  • preventing the phone from sleeping;
  • Google Play billing service access;
  • receiving data from the Internet.

FaceApp uploads and processes photos on the cloud, but, according to the head of this company, the photo is only the one that the user selected himself. He claims that the camera roll is not accessible and users can access the app without revealing their name or email.

However, the opposers claim that the company can do whatever they want and misuse the information that becomes accessible when people use FaceApp. The data can be transferred to various locations, including Russia. The officials answer they wouldn't sell data to third-party companies and that information is not transferred to Russia. However, the section about data sharing has some shady statements:

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.

Additionally, data is not stored and secured properly. Anything uploaded to the cloud is not controlled by you anymore and your legal license to the content ends the minute you upload anything on the internet.[6] Such poorly secured databases lead to data breaches, leaked personal records, and other sensitive information, which are the main problems regarding cybersecurity.

Is data sharing the new issue related to mobile applications?

People have started questioning the risks of the FaceApp because they have already seen data collection issues related to Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.[7] Facebook has been the most known for collecting personal data and leaking it to seriously questionable parties.[8]

These providers have not commented on the issue of data recording, so millions of us might end up on a billboard somewhere in Russia, or our faces may be used in AI training. All those privacy issues and data tracking problems are not new, so pay more attention and browse online at your own risk.[9]

About the author

Ugnius Kiguolis
Ugnius Kiguolis - The mastermind

Ugnius Kiguolis is a professional malware analyst who is also the founder and the owner of 2-Spyware. At the moment, he takes over as Editor-in-chief.

Contact Ugnius Kiguolis
About the company Esolutions

References


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