faceapp screen

Viral FaceApp Draws Concerns From Users About Data Privacy

The app, which is based out of Russia, was popular for its ability to make users look older. But critics say there’s a catch.

An app that uses artificial intelligence to make users look older, younger or a different gender went viral over the past week, with everyone from Kevin Hart to K-pop stars BTS posting selfies of their aged faces. 

But almost as quickly as the trend caught on, the reality of privacy concerns caught up with people who downloaded FaceApp, an application with over 80 million active users that was created by a Russia-based startup in early 2017.

Among the concerns pointed out by cybersecurity experts, journalists, lawmakers and app users alike: There was not much known about whether FaceApp uploads users’ photos to the cloud or if they had access to all photos on an individual phone even if the user had not granted access to their photo library.

The photo library issue is actually allowed in Apple’s operating system, as iOS allows users to select specific photos to upload to apps even if they did not give permission to access the entire library, TechCrunch reported.

However, the answer to the cloud issue is not as simple. FaceApp told TechCrunch and other media outlets that most of the processing that powers its transformations of people’s faces is done in the cloud.

In its statement, the company said it only uploads photos selected by the user for editing.

“We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud,” FaceApp said. “The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation.”

The startup added that “most images” are deleted from their servers within 48 hours of the upload and that they accept requests from users who desire to have all of their data deleted from their servers. It said the company’s support team is “currently overloaded” with these requests.

In addition, FaceApp responded to concerns about the company’s location in Russia and the potential for the Russian government to access users’ facial data. Although the company’s core research and development team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia, according to FaceApp.

“We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties,” the statement said.

The assurances did little to quiet concerns among lawmakers and users. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the senate minority leader, sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Federal Trade Commission Wednesday asking for the agencies to investigate the app’s claims about its protections of user data.

Schumer pointed out that the terms and conditions that users agree to when they use FaceApp allow the company to use or publish content shared with the application, including a username or real name, without notifying or paying users.

“I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as whether users are aware of who may have access to it,” Schumer wrote.

Schumer also focused on FaceApp’s location in Russia and how the company “provides access” to the data of American citizens to third parties or foreign governments.

“It would be deeply troubling if the sensitive personal information of U.S. citizens was provided to a hostile foreign power actively engaged in cyber hostilities against the United States,” Schumer wrote.

He added: “In the age of facial recognition technology as both a surveillance and security use, it is essential that users have the information they need to ensure their personal and biometric data remains secure, including from hostile foreign nations.”

It remains to be seen how the privacy concerns will affect FaceApp’s popularity, but tech experts advise users to think more carefully about what apps they download and what information they share.

“I completely understand that it's nearly impossible to protect your data around the web,” tech journalist Charlie Warzel wrote on Twitter. “But downloading/not downloading apps is a really concrete way to protect your privacy. It's a rare situation where the user is in control.”

Featured

  • Maximizing Your Security Budget This Year

    7 Ways You Can Secure a High-Traffic Commercial Security Gate  

    Your commercial security gate is one of your most powerful tools to keep thieves off your property. Without a security gate, your commercial perimeter security plan is all for nothing. Read Now

  • Making Safety and Security Intrinsic to School Design

    Public anxieties about school safety are escalating across the country. According to a 2023 Gallup report, 44% of parents fear for their child’s physical safety at school, a 10 percentage-point increase since 2019. Unfortunately, these fears are likely to increase if the incidence of school tragedies continues to mount. As a result, school leaders are now charged with two non-negotiable responsibilities. The first, as always, is to ensure kids have what they need to learn, grow, and thrive. Sadly, their second responsibility is to keep the children in their care safe from threats and physical danger. Read Now

  • The Power of a Layered Approach to Safety

    In a perfect world, every school would have an unlimited budget to help secure their schools. In reality, schools must prioritize what budget they have while navigating the complexities surrounding school security and lockdown. Read Now

  • How a Security System Can Enhance Arena Safety and the Fan Experience

    Ensuring guests have both a memorable experience and a safe one is no small feat for your physical security team. Stadiums, ballparks, arenas, and other large event venues are increasingly leveraging new technologies to transform the fan experience and maintain a high level of security. The goal is to preserve the integrity and excitement of the event while enhancing security and remaining “behind the scenes.” Read Now

Featured Cybersecurity

Webinars

New Products

  • HD2055 Modular Barricade

    Delta Scientific’s electric HD2055 modular shallow foundation barricade is tested to ASTM M50/P1 with negative penetration from the vehicle upon impact. With a shallow foundation of only 24 inches, the HD2055 can be installed without worrying about buried power lines and other below grade obstructions. The modular make-up of the barrier also allows you to cover wider roadways by adding additional modules to the system. The HD2055 boasts an Emergency Fast Operation of 1.5 seconds giving the guard ample time to deploy under a high threat situation. 3

  • Luma x20

    Luma x20

    Snap One has announced its popular Luma x20 family of surveillance products now offers even greater security and privacy for home and business owners across the globe by giving them full control over integrators’ system access to view live and recorded video. According to Snap One Product Manager Derek Webb, the new “customer handoff” feature provides enhanced user control after initial installation, allowing the owners to have total privacy while also making it easy to reinstate integrator access when maintenance or assistance is required. This new feature is now available to all Luma x20 users globally. “The Luma x20 family of surveillance solutions provides excellent image and audio capture, and with the new customer handoff feature, it now offers absolute privacy for camera feeds and recordings,” Webb said. “With notifications and integrator access controlled through the powerful OvrC remote system management platform, it’s easy for integrators to give their clients full control of their footage and then to get temporary access from the client for any troubleshooting needs.” 3

  • ResponderLink

    ResponderLink

    Shooter Detection Systems (SDS), an Alarm.com company and a global leader in gunshot detection solutions, has introduced ResponderLink, a groundbreaking new 911 notification service for gunshot events. ResponderLink completes the circle from detection to 911 notification to first responder awareness, giving law enforcement enhanced situational intelligence they urgently need to save lives. Integrating SDS’s proven gunshot detection system with Noonlight’s SendPolice platform, ResponderLink is the first solution to automatically deliver real-time gunshot detection data to 911 call centers and first responders. When shots are detected, the 911 dispatching center, also known as the Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP, is contacted based on the gunfire location, enabling faster initiation of life-saving emergency protocols. 3