FaceApp and Data Privacy Concerns with Mobile Apps
Tammy Slaughter wrote this article
This whole FaceApp thing is getting kind of old, am I right?
*chuckles, slaps knee*
I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.
But what started off innocently enough, as a sea of elderly celebrities and acquaintances alike on our timelines, has turned into a heated debate on data privacy and the apps we are using every day.
So far, over 150 million users have already uploaded their visage (and that of their friends and family) to the app to enjoy the AI-fueled transformation.
It’s now the top-ranked app on the iOS store in 121 different countries.
But with the DNC calling for a formal investigation into the app, its Russian origins, and everyone suddenly up at arms about its Terms of Service policies on social media, it’s easy to get pretty nervous.
If this is you, then most, unfortunately, I have some bad news:
Most apps today that deal with user content include language in their Terms of Service that reads almost identical to FaceApp’s.
So then, why all the hysteria?
It’s because people are starting to care more about data privacy, but they don’t quite understand it yet.
The Origins of FaceApp
FaceApp was launched for iOS and Android devices back in early 2017 by Russian company Wireless Labs.
Of today’s controversy, founder and CEO Yaroslav Goncharov of Wireless Labs says “most images” are deleted from their company servers within 48 hours, the servers being hosted by Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services. Most likely, any images stored are being used to train their AI facial-recognition software.
And as far as app development goes with setting up a viable app infrastructure, that’s pretty standard stuff, to be honest.
But this is not the first time FaceApp has received public backlash.
Back in 2017, they released several features that landed them in hot water, including ethnicity filters, like one that appeared to lighten skin and make users look more European.
At the time, those filters were taken off the app, and an apology was issued.
This time, however, I’m not so sure they should. This is a change that needs to start from the industry up.
FaceApp is only a symptom of a larger epidemic looming on the horizon.
Don’t forget the app development industry as we know it today is less than twenty years old. And now, in the age where social media and user-generated content rules supreme, policing data privacy is the new frontier just waiting to be explored.
But as of right now, FaceApp users can request to have all their data deleted from the app. It’s not a built-in feature on the UI, but it can be done.
Just go to ‘Settings->Support->Report a bug’ with the word ‘privacy’ in the subject line.
Nobody reads the Terms of Service Agreement…but maybe we should
Here’s the thing:
Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter.
What do they all have in common with FaceApp?
Their data privacy policies, in one way or another.
Now, let’s compare to other major apps out there today.
Don’t get me wrong; the language in FaceApp’s Terms of Service is pretty cutthroat. But at the heart of the issue, they’re all basically saying the same thing:
When you share user generated content through an app, your data is collected and used in a myriad of different ways, some you might not expect.
So, is your data safe with FaceApp?
We honestly can’t tell you whether or not your data is safe with FaceApp.
Maybe this is like a plot straight out of a cheesy 80’s action movie set in the year 2019 involving a shady Russian syndicate and a mobile app. Stranger Things have happened, right?
But one thing we do know: Many successful companies have had data breaches in recent years, most notably Experian and Marriott, to name a few.
And with the popularity of apps amongst users, the possibility of a data breach has gone up exponentially, and it’s something always to be aware of.
It’s simply become our new reality, and that’s what you should really be worried about.
The real outrage with this whole overblown panic is that FaceApp is not an outlier, but closer to the industry standard when it comes to data privacy policies for apps.
But unless you’re someone who is concerned with data privacy across all the apps you encounter daily (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, by the way), I wouldn’t worry about the media hype surrounding FaceApp too much.
Instead, take a good hard look at what apps you’ve already downloaded to your devices are doing with your data.
Take your metaphorical magnifying glass to the Terms of Service agreements you haphazardly agreed to upon downloading those apps initially.
Like what you see?