Popular new ‘FaceApp’ is sweeping social media while authorities issue stark warning


The ongoing, exponential advancements in digital technology that we see today really are amazing.

Now, with just a slim device in our pockets, we can not only communicate immediately, directly, and via video, but we can know precisely where we are in the world at any given time, listen to any song ever written, check the weather, watch television, etc.  Our smartphones are very literally the sort of magical device that we would have concocted for ourselves during a middle school daydream.

Our smartphones are also changing the world, thanks to their ability to capture photos and videos at the drop of a hat.  We have never been more connected to each other in this way, and the ability for citizens to contribute to the national news has given us a glimpse into the nation in ways we have never seen before.

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This widespread use of cameras has also produced an exponential growth in the way image capturing technology works, with the sort of movie magic that was once relegated to Hollywood now at our fingertips.

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The latest use of this sort of entertainment technology is the FaceApp – an application that is often used to make the subject of a photograph appear much older.  The results are quite convincing, too, leading to the app’s widespread usage.

But there are concerns, too.

Originally released two years ago, FaceApp was designed by the St. Petersburg, Russia–based firm Wireless Lab. Twitter quickly took notice of the app’s national origin, and several users expressed concern that their funny aged photos (any maybe the originals, too) were being sent across the cloud to servers in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s backyard—for who knows what.

Privacy Matters and several news outlets (some in rather alarming terms) pointed out that when you use the app, you grant Wireless Lab a lot of rights. That includes 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 … without compensation to you.” That basically means FaceApp can do whatever it wants with your photos, according to New York Law School professor Ari Waldman. “You retain copyrights and photos that you upload, but you grant them the opportunity to pretty much do anything they want with the photos that are stored on their servers,” Waldman told me. And in many cases, it’s not just photos of the individual using the app—people upload images of their friends and families, too, meaning such a database of faces would be massive, and that same policy would apply regardless of who is in the photo. “It’s pretty broad, to say the least,” Waldman said.

Worse still, some users reported that FaceApp gained access to their entire camera roll, allowing the application to see images and videos that would otherwise have been considered private.

As with any new application that wants a piece of your data, it would be wise to thoroughly understand the “terms and agreements” before use.

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