It seems the reports were a false alarm, with FaceApp clarifying the reasons behind its terms of service and addressing the privacy concerns.
Rabat – Recently, social media has been inundated with people posting photos of what they will supposedly look like years in the future thanks to “FaceApp.”
More than 150,000 million people have downloaded the app from Google Play, and FaceApp is now the top-ranked app on the iOS App Store in 121 countries.
However, concerns have been raised over permission people are granting the Russian application as they hop on the viral trend. Agreeing to the terms of service reportedly grants the app a royalty-free license to do whatever they want with the photos uploaded to their servers.
“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,” says the applications terms of service.
Joshua Nozzi, a software developer, was the first person to draw attention to the issue in a tweet published on the night of Monday, July 15t, and media outlets soon picked up on the claim. “BE CAREFUL WITH FACEAPP….it immediately uploads your photos without asking, whether you choose one or not.” The tweet has since been deleted.
Concerns continued to escalate, with the New York Times’s Charlie Warzel tweeting:
“The app that you’re willingly giving all your facial data to says the company’s location is in Saint-Petersburg, Russia.” This tweet has also since been deleted.
Allegations not everything they seem
However, it seems the concerns were a false alarm, with FaceApp clarifying the reasons behind its terms of service and addressing the privacy concerns.
Speaking to American news outlet CNBC on Wednesday, FaceApp clarified that “it only uploads the photo selected for editing and that it does not upload any other images in your library.
While most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours, it “might store” some uploaded photos in the cloud for “performance and traffic” reasons. It also said that while the app’s “core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.”
As FaceApp came to clarify the concerns, Nozzi, the man who initially raised the red flag over the app, posted a lengthy statement to his website stating: “First of all: I was wrong.”
“I was wrong about what I thought the app was doing (uploading all pics once granted access), and I was wrong to have posted the accusation without testing it first. Full stop.”
However, while acknowledging he “may have overreacted,” he said users should still be wary. “I stand by my warning to be careful with this app and other fad apps just like it. I’d like to address a few issues that are still very real,” he said.
“The biggest oddity is that the app asks for full, unfettered access to your photos (on iOS) without really needing to. It then begins doing … something … with them that takes time, as they appear a few at a time, and rather slowly.”
It’s important to note that while FaceApp’s terms of service uses concerning language, most popular platforms and apps, such as Google and Facebook, have the same language, without most users noticing.
Recently Google researchers disclosed that they used at least 8 million user images to train face recognition, and Facebook researchers mentioned using at least 10 million users.
After the storm of worry and conspiracy theories about Russians on social media, the app now has a warning in place before users take a photo: “Cloud Photo Processing: Each photo you select for editing will be uploaded to our servers for imaging processing and face transformation.” Users can decide if they still want to proceed, or if they prefer not to give up their picture.