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100 Million Downloads Later, Should You Be Worried About FaceApp’s Privacy Controversy?

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The AI-powered selfie editing software FaceApp has come under fire again, this time being accosted by questions about the privacy and security of its users… and it’s got over a hundred million of them. So, should you be worried?

Kinda, but not really. Sorry guys, that’s the closest I can get to a yes or no. Here’s why:

One of the big questions that came up was a since-deleted Tweet by an app developer claiming that FaceApp was making copies of all the photos on your phone and keeping them. This one at least, we can answer. They’re not. A bunch of news sites, including the BBC, have checked it out, and found nothing to worry about.

So, what else has been concerning people?

Lots of people have come out and said they’re not really concerned about FaceApp, because Facebook collects so much more data already. At surface level, they’ve kinda got a point – take a look at the permissions they request:

So why is the FBI being asked to look into FaceApp?

Well, a lot of it comes down to the fact that, unlike a lot of other photo-filter apps, FaceApp’s filtering doesn’t take place on your phone. The photo gets sent to their servers, is downloaded and edited over there, then sent back to your phone. On the suspicious side, this does mean that they have a copy of every single photo you put through the app.

On the less suspicious side, FaceApp has said that it deletes users’ photos after 48 hours. However, there’s no concrete verification of this at the moment. And honestly, this image of their terms and conditions that’s been going viral does raise a few eyebrows…

But that’s not all.

Even if they delete the photos, there’s no mention of the metadata they get from them. In short, the software has to measure your face to know where to put the wrinkles on the old age filter. And even if the photo is deleted, those measurements might be kept and can potentially be used for things such as facial recognition.

But let’s not get too suspicious; there are very good business reasons for FaceApp to edit the photo on their own servers rather than your phone – the chief one being that it makes it harder for rival apps to copy their software.

At the moment, the general consensus seems to be that FaceApp seems like a legit company

What is probably worth being worried about is that legit app companies often don’t have the best digital security, and FaceApp’s currently got a great resource of photos and facial recognition data that hackers could take advantage of. Honestly, this is probably why the US is asking the FBI to investigate FaceApp… especially since the company is Russia-based.

If you’re really concerned, you can get FaceApp to delete your data.

In a statement to TechCrunch, FaceApp said that users can request FaceApp to delete their data by sending a request through Settings->Support->Report a bug with the word “privacy” in the subject line.

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