In the past week or so, you’ve probably run into a flood of images of young people turned old on your social media. FaceApp is the current internet craze and has been going viral lately.

m - FaceApp invading privacy through a fun disguise
Image: FaceApp

For those who don’t know, FaceApp is a free photo editing application that uses artificial intelligence to edit and transform a face, generating a vast array of modified photographs. With over 30 million active users worldwide. It allows the user to upload a photo and transform it into them looking older, younger or of the opposite gender. These results are all highly realistic, thus fun to share.

The application was released in 2017 but it is now that it has taken the internet by storm. The social media realm has lately been flooding with people sharing the transformed images of themselves on various platforms using FaceApp; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, you name it and you would see it for yourselves.

As fun as it is to have one’s photo transformed and while we are all intrigued about what we are going to look like 20-30 years down the lane, there’s something bigger that is of grave concern. That’s right, P-R-I-V-A-C-Y!

Now we all know that other social media platforms have been called out regarding data security and privacy concerns but FaceApp has been granted special attention in this regard. All hail to the owner company, Wireless Labs, on being Russian. Thus, making it controversial and scandalous. It has triggered a debate regarding serious data security concerns across the globe.

Ry Crist, a senior editor at CNET, mentioned how he was tempted to download the app but chose to read the privacy policy and terms before doing so. According to him the privacy policy states “We may also share certain information such as cookie data with third-party advertising partners…This information would allow third-party ad networks to, among other things, deliver targeted advertisements that they believe will be of most interest to you.”

Whereas the Terms read, “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”

The controversy has gone as viral as the app itself, that too at global level. Forbes, Washington Post, New York Post, India Today, ABC News, Euro News, CBS News, Business Today are few among the many that have been covering this story in detail.

faceapp.Getty - FaceApp invading privacy through a fun disguise
image: FaceApp/ Getty

With all these concerns being raised, the manufacturers have denied any privacy breach or selling of data to any third parties, claiming that the data is not stored in Russian databases and the images are deleted from the server in a matter of 48 hours. To ease concerns, Wireless Labs issued a statement to TechCrunch.

Previously, the technology behind Deepfakes application raised a lot of privacy threat concerns.  It used technology similar to that being used for FaceApp.

Where do we go from here? Well, we shall all see. The fact of the matter is that the rising ability of these evolving technologies to manipulate images puts our faith in the visual media in jeopardy.

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