The old age filter on photo-editing app FaceApp is taking over the internet.
If you think FaceApp’s terms and conditions are scary, you might want to check out Facebook’s, or any other social networking website for that matter.
It’s undeniable that FaceApp is having a moment right now. It’s the reason why everyone on your timeline seems to have aged 60 years over-night as fans use the hashtag #faceappchallenge to share their transformations online.
But as people in the U.S. use the selfie-editing tool to make themselves appear older and crinklier, controversy has been sparked over how the Russian startup handles user privacy.
Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer has called for the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the app poses “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens,” and the Democratic National Committee urges 2020 campaigns not to use FaceApp “developed by Russians.”
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All this comes as people on social media seem to be alarmed that the app is harvesting metadata from their smartphones.
FaceApp told CNBC it doesn’t sell or share any user data with third parties and user data is not transferred to Russia. It also said that only a selected photo is uploaded by the app — a response to claims that it gains access to your entire photo library — and the company says it will remove data from servers at users’ requests.
While photo privacy is always a valid concern, what FaceApp can do with your pictures isn’t very different from what Facebook’s Terms of Service allows.
When you use Facebook you are giving the social media permission to “use your name and profile picture and information about actions you have taken on Facebook next to or in connection with ads, offers, and other sponsored content.”
Hand using a smartphone. (Photo: CASEZY, Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Oh, and Facebook isn’t going to pay you for it.
Lest we forget, Facebook’s past is riddled with privacy controversy, and the social networking giant has way more information about its users than a selfie or two. So updating your status on Facebook to express your concerns about FaceApp is the digital equivalent to jumping in the ocean and complaining about getting wet.
A screenshot of FaceApp. (Photo: Wireless Lab OOO)
In other words, you and the company share ownership of what you upload and FaceApp owes you nothing.
One easy-to-forget element in the privacy debate is that even if you opt to not use the service, someone you know (or a total stranger) could enhance photos of you on FaceApp, giving your photos over to the foreign developer without you even knowing.
You’re fully justified in worrying about FaceApp’s ability to send your photos to a remote server in Russia, but remember other apps like SnapChat also send your pix to remote servers before they are automatically deleted.
FaceApp says it uploads user’s photos to Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services servers, according to TechCrunch, However, FaceApp didn’t immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.
Like FaceApp, Instagram collects metadata such as the location of a photo or the date the file was created. The photo-sharing app also has access to your camera. According to its Data Policy, Instagram uses this information to “provide, personalize and improve” its products.
Follow Dalvin Brown on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown.
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