FaceApp's Probably Not Stealing Your Photographs

Over the last few days, you may have noticed the #faceappchallenge taking over your social media accounts.

In case you are one of the four people in the world who hasn’t come across this viral trend yet, let us explain.

FaceApp allows users to upload pictures of their face and apply various AI filters which realistically transform the face into anything from the opposite gender to a pensioner.

However, when all the fun and games are over – one is left questioning what happens to the reams of face photographs used as a template for the app to work?

On Monday, the challenge was just going viral when Joshua Nozzi, a software developer, warned people to “BE CAREFUL WITH FACEAPP….it immediately uploads your photos without asking, whether you chose one or not”.

Media outlets picked up on the claim and privacy concerns about the app began to mount. Concern escalated further when people started to point out that FaceApp is Russian-owned.

“The app that you’re willingly giving all your facial data to says the company’s location is in Saint-Petersburg, Russia,” tweeted the New York Times’s Charlie Warzel.

And we all know what those Russians are like, don’t we? 

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Thankfully, this all turned out to be another of the Web’s many storm-in-a-teacup moments.

By Wednesday, things calmed down when a security researcher who goes by the pseudonym Elliot Alderson (real name Baptiste Robert) downloaded the app and checked where it was sending users’ faces.

According to Forbes, the French cyber expert found FaceApp only took submitted photos—those that you want the software to transform—back up to company servers.

It was later found that the aforementioned servers were based in the US, Ireland, Singapore and Australia. Not even a Russian-adjacent in sight.

To further back this, FaceApp’s terms of service state that when you use the app you grant it a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide” license to do whatever it wants with your photos. However, while this may be awful, it’s worth pointing out that it’s the same as the privacy policy of basically every other tech service and platform.

Faceapp then released a further statement, putting minds at rest, stating clearly: "We don't sell or share any user data with any third parties."

Users who have been spooked by Cambridge Analytica's past can also request that all user data be deleted. And users can do this by going to settings, then support and opt to report a bug, using the word "privacy" in the subject line message. 

In other words, your selfies are safe. Probably. Who knows, really. 

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