#Faceappchallenge is the new maniac among the smart-phone users that has taken over almost all the social-media platforms. The challenge revolves around installing a free face editing app named Faceapp, applying one of its features to age your face digitally & post them on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.
If you have scrolled your social-media accounts recently, you must have observed your friends/relatives uploading pictures of their older & younger self.
This new free face editing app cherished immense popularity among the Android & iOS Users last week. It transcended Apple App Store’s top charts as the most downloaded app, leaving behind Whatsapp & Facebook. The number of users of this new face app has crossed over 80 millions.
Faceapp’s CEO, Yaroslav Goncharov was overwhelmed with joy to announce the success this face filter app achieved in such a short span. Prompted with the success, Yaroslav posted on Facebook: “Change, it’s nice”.
Developed in 2017 by Wireless Lab, a Russia-based company, FaceApp is a funny face app that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to modify your images that you upload to the app. The app enables you to age yourself, swap gender & transform yourself in to a hit man (a bald version of yourself).
During the year of its launch, this face exchange app faced wide reproof for incorporating “racist” selfie-filters – that facilitated the users to brighten their skin tones.
Another storm of outrage was kindled against FaceApp a few months later, after it launched an array of “ethnicity filters”. The ethnicity filters allowed users to modify their images to appear “Asian”, “India” or “black”.
Though these features were introduced with good intentions, people took them to the road leading to racism.
While this free face editing app is cherishing the popularity it gained last week, a rumor professed that the app access user photos from the gallery & upload them to the FaceApp’s server without the user’s consent.
Joshua Nozzi, a software developer, warned the users to be careful while using FaceApp. The warning was picked up by the social media outlets immediately & user’s privacy issues began to mount.
The face app security concerns got kindled when many of the FaceApp users began to point out that FaceApp is a Russian App.
On 17th July 2019, the Democratic National Committee of the United States urged 2020 Presidential Campaigns to delete the FaceApp immediately as it is still vague what the Russian-owned app is doing with the user’s data & uploaded images.
Following this notice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been asked to initiate an investigation against the FaceApp as it could pose national security & personal data risks for millions of U.S. citizens.
Another face app security concern sprang up when the iOS Users claimed FaceApp’s iOS Version to override the permissions given by the user. The users stated that they are able to select & upload a photo to the app-despite denying its access to their camera roll.
While no strong evidence confirms these claims, some of the users are using Twitter to voice their concerns.
Elizabeth Potts, a Twitter user, highlighted privacy concerns associated with the free face editing app. She said that by uploading the images to FaceApp, users give the developers access to their images, name & likeness. To support her say, she uploaded a screenshot of the FaceApp’s User Agreement.
Many Twitter users came around, supported her say & followed the string of Elizabeth’s tweet. They said that FaceApp may be capturing some of the private data along with the faces as the usage of the data gathered by the App has not been made clear in the privacy policies.
In response to the claims & privacy concerns raised by the users, FaceApp provided a few points to explain the basics of the data usage-
1). It said the photo-processing at FaceApp is carried out on the cloud. The image selected by the user for editing is only uploaded. The FaceApp never accesses other images on the user’s device.
2). The main reason behind storing an uploaded photo in the cloud is to maintain the performance & traffic. The FaceApp ensures that no image is uploaded repeatedly for every edit operation. The FaceApp further stated that the uploaded image is deleted within 48 hours from the upload date.
3). All the FaceApp features can be accessed by the user without logging in, as a result, 99% of the users do not bother to login to edit their photos. Therefore, the chances of FaceApp to steal data of the user is negligible.
4). FaceApp stated that it does not sell or share user data to the third parties.
5). The user data is not transferred to Russia, though the core Research & Development Team of FaceApp is located in Russia.
The evidences found so far don’t suggest FaceApp is stealing the pictures & forwarding them to the Russian government. Now, the choice of uploading the images on the the free face editing app rests in your hands.
In addition to that, you are advised to be vigilant while uploading content/images to the Apps & think about the implications of giving up your data.
Stay aware of the permissions you grant to the Applications while installing & avoid installing the apps that asks for permissions beyond their usage.
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