Serious privacy concerns over viral FaceApp trend

Penny Burfitt
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
MAFS' Jules, The Bachelor Matt Agnew, and Grant Denyer are some celebs who have jumped on the trend. Photo: Instagram

The FaceApp app has the whole world in stitches right now, with its realistic ageing effect turning all of us into our future selves in the blink of an eye.

Celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon, sharing their own side-splitting images to the delight of millions around the globe and everywhere people are ‘gramming, tweeting and sharing to Facebook, their favourite results from the app.

It turns out however, that amidst all the fun and games there are serious concerns being raised at the amount of people using the app, and what exactly can be done with the photos you take there.

The worldwide sensation is owned by a Russian parent company, Wireless Labs.

With no listed website, little information is available online, yet the app is the most popular item on everyone’s phone this week.

It’s the number one app on Google Play and the App Store, and it holds unprecedented rights to access and use your personal content.

The app's access to its users personal photos is concerning professionals. Photo: Supplied

The details and intricacies of online privacy are always difficult to navigate, but when it comes to Faceapp it’s simple - they can use your photos for whatever they like, for as long as they like, and they don’t owe you squat.

More specifically, their privacy statement says, “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.”

Is this unusual access?

How much access is normal, and should you be worried? Photo: getty Images

The company has issued a disclaimer of sorts.

“We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud,” Wireless Lab told Tech Crunch. “We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud.”

In other words, they can but trust them, they won’t.

To many it probably doesn’t seem that different from Facebook’s terms of service.

Well, it is.

Tech expert Rob La Gesse pointed out on Facebook on Wednesday that Faceapp can actually access any photo in your phone, whenever it likes.

“To make FaceApp actually work, you have to give it permissions to access your photos - ALL of them,“ he wrote in a detailed status.

“But it also gains access to Siri and Search. Why? Not for anything good for you, I bet.”

It also has access to your photos whether you delete them or not, unlike Facebook.

“User Content removed from the Services may continue to be stored by FaceApp,” the app’s T&C’s read.

Experts are also warning that the Russian-based parent company is also cause for concern, which should come as no surprise to anyone.

“You might end up on a billboard somewhere in Moscow, but your face will most likely end up training some AI facial-recognition algorithm,” PhoneArena's Peter Kostadinov told Forbes magazine.

The company is listed as Wireless Labs based in St Petersburg and licensed to Yaroslav Goncharov who according to The Globe Post used to work for Microsoft.

Of course with the proliferation of cameras and phones we live with today, maintaining total privacy has become increasingly difficult, but a thorough read of the Terms of Service should probably be a far more integrated part of our daily app use.

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