I bet your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter are literally flooded with old age pictures of your friends and celebrities. Yeah, it’s trending right, the FaceApp.
This is an AI Image editor that can apply a filter to your face such as an aged look filter, young look filter, smile filter, and many more. This app has literally took the Internet by storm.
It has more than 100,000,000 installs on play store!
And I don't know about App Store because Apple doesn't publicly display the number of installs of any app on the App Store. (I mean, but why?)
What this App does?
Using this app, users can click a photo or select an already existing photo from their gallery and they can choose a filter to apply to this photo (like, old age look, young age look, gender swap, adding smile, changing hair colour, style, etc)
To be honest, I was really impressed by the outcome that this App provides. The modified photos are really convincing and worth trying!
I was really impressed to see what AI can do to estimate what you'll look like after 40 years from now, or what you'll look like if you are the opposite gender. My curiosity in learning AI and Machine Learning has also increased after using this App.
All things apart, let's talk about the privacy of this App's users, since it is a trend now and literally have millions of users in America itself.
From the user's perspective...
This is what the App does from the user's perspective.
You install and open the App.
Skip the demo part
And then it shows a message box that roughly says that "The photos you are using with this App will be uploaded to their servers for processing". How many of you have actually read this before tapping on "Agree"?
You click a photo, or select one from your gallery
You select the filter that you want to apply
The filter is applied and the modified photo is shown
The App already warns the user that their photos will be sent to the server for processing.
But here is the thing, most of the Photo editing apps like this does all the processing (like applying filters, and stuff) on the mobile device itself instead of uploading the picture to their servers and then processing it (consider Snapchat, Snapseed, PicsArt, etc).
The immediate problem I find here is that, people don't actually know that their photos will be uploaded to the server of this App first, since they are used to Apps like Snapseed, PicsArt etc where the photos will not be uploaded to the server, instead all the photo processing is done on the mobile device itself.
Let us all agree that there are certainly some photos on our mobile, which we want to keep private and don't want anyone else to see.
Without proper knowledge about this App's policies, one can easily put their private pictures in risk by just giving them away to this App's server!
Let us say that a person X is using this App for the first time. X opens the app and he completely ignores the warning from the app that says all the photos used with the app will be uploaded to their server for processing. He immediately clicks agree without even reading what the message is.
X then selects a private picture (or a picture he doesn't want anyone to see) from the gallery. By the time he realizes that his picture is being uploaded to the server, the upload is already done! So now his picture is literally available for anyone at FaceApp to see, or to even third-parties to whom FaceApp may be selling your info like your pictures, username, etc.
What's even more worrying is,
Someone actually read the terms and conditions of the FaceApp on their website and here is one part they found which seems a little....well, actually very worrying.
Here is the part of their terms which needs to be made a note of,
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.
You grant FaceApp consent to use the User Content, regardless of whether it includes an individual’s name, likeness, voice or persona, sufficient to indicate the individual’s identity. By using the Services, you agree that the User Content may be used for commercial purposes
Notice the term irrevocable? What is that supposed to mean?
Let's take the same person X who unknowingly gave away his photo to the FaceApp server, now not only does the app have no option to delete that particular picture from the server, even its terms say that once the picture is uploaded to the server, it is irrevocable!
Which means you can't deny FaceApp the rights to your photo once you upload it!
It gets even more interesting here, the terms also say "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"
Basically FaceApp is claiming every right to modify the photos you uploaded however they want, reproduce your photos whenever they want, publish your photos wherever they want (publicly, which means it can be seen by anyone). WOW!
And also, as we all may already guess, FaceApp sells info it collected from us (like the media, IP address, name, interactions, etc) with advertisers for commercial purposes. And the same is also clearly mentioned in their terms as well. I mean, yeah every company does this, but just saying.
Thinking of FaceApp as an Internet trend right now where millions of users are already using this App by "submitting" their photos to FaceApp, just imagine how much data FaceApp has accommodated until now. They now know how we look, and they can modify our photos as they want (as mentioned in their terms) using the same AI technology they are offering to users.
I mean, if they can make you look old, make you look young, make you smile, change your hair style, hair colour, make you look like a hollywood actor, etc., can't they do more modifications to your photo? Like artificially make a video of you doing something by just using the photo you submitted? Yes, it's absolutely possible to do anything with just a photo of yours using the technology.
And of-course, you might say why would they even spend their time in modifying my photos, reproducing them or do any stuff like that, I'm not that important.
Yeah, it might be true but I'm just saying that it is possible for them to do anything with your data for "commercial" purposes.
Overall, I'm not suggesting you to stop using or immediately uninstall FaceApp from your device, but I just want to say that you should know the consequences of using FaceApp or for that matter, any app on the Internet. Make sure you read the terms and conditions of any App that collects such information from you, or at-least look up on the Internet to see if that particular app respects user's privacy and if it does anything unwanted.