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[SciTech] Addressing privacy, data concerns over FaceApp challenge

[SciTech] Addressing privacy, data concerns over FaceApp challenge

The Morning Call

The face-editing app, FaceApp, which has taken the world by storm, uses artificial intelligence to generate one’s younger or older self, and also allows people to swap their genders or add facial hair or makeup.

The app can be downloaded and used free of charge, but some tech analysts are worried that your privacy might be the price you pay to satisfy your curiosity.

FaceApp has in the past week gone viral, as celebrities and ordinary people share their edited faces on various social networks. The same app, which was launched in 2017, made headlines in 2018 when it removed its ‘ethnicity filters’ after users condemned them as racist.

Developed by Wireless Lab, a company based in Russia’s St. Petersburg, FaceApp says on its website that it has over 80 million active users.

Critics are worried that the viral smartphone application, which requires “full and irrevocable access to users’ personal photos and data,” could pose “significant privacy risks’‘.

While it is not clear how the artificial intelligence application retains the data of users or how users may ensure the deletion of their data after usage, FaceApp has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties.

AP’s technology reporter, Rachel Lerman shared some insights about the app.

Why is the FaceApp trending?

So FaceApp is this app that you can download either on your iPhone or Android that will take a picture of your face and then show you what you look like when you’re young, when you’re old, when you’re wearing makeup, with a different haircut, things like that. And it’s gotten really popular lately specifically for the what do you look like when you’re old feature. So we have a whole bunch of people who are putting their photos in to see ostensibly what they would look like when they get older.

Why are some tech analysts warning against the use of FaceApp?

The app has actually been around for a couple of years but somebody realised. oh, this app is developed in Russia and people are a little bit wary of Russia taking their data right now because of some of the scandals that we’ve had in the past and because of election concerns. That being said, yes the app is developed in St. Petersburg, Russia but the company claims that it’s doing all of its processing on cloud servers hosted within the United States. So that means when you put in a photo and it sends it up to the cloud in order to put all the A.I. on it and show you what you look like when you get old, that is happening in the US, so the company says.

Does FaceApp sell its users’ data to third parties?

We see some of these pictures go into facial recognition databases. Some of them get sold to third parties. Some of them are sold to data brokers. Now this app is saying, yes, we’re using your data to target ads at you but we’re not selling your data. However there are several exceptions to that and their privacy policy such as if your data is anonymous or aggregated with a whole bunch of other peoples then yeah, they might share it. They do say that they delete most of the photos held in their server after 48 hours but it’s unclear what does ‘most’ mean, and within those 48 hours what exactly are they doing with it.

There are still many questions about FaceApp and the greater debate on social apps and protection of digital data. But ultimately, the decision to trade your privacy for the fantastic joys of technology is up to you.

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The Morning Call

The Morning Call is about you. We want to share your opinions on our programme. If you want to contribute to The Morning Call, here are the best ways to get in touch : For more details on how to contribute, click here.