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Russian FaceApp, A Privacy Threat?

Angelique Anne Villa

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  • The new trending FaceApp is developed by a Russian company. 
  • The application has been on the hot seat after being tagged as a privacy threat.

It can be alarming for most people when they learn that the app they have on their phones has been announced as a privacy threat. Recently, a post about FaceApp, an application developed by a Russian company, has made some users panic.

Thomas Brewster from CNN reported a tweet “set off a minor internet panic” when one developer posted a warning, saying the app could actually be “taking all the photos from your phone and uploading them to its servers” without user permission.

FaceApp, an application ran by artificial intelligence, transforms a user’s photo by making him or her look older. The app also offers other options like gender-swapping, instant tattoos, and more. 

FaceApp has actually been around since 2017 and was developed by Wireless Lab in Petersburg. So why did problems pop out just now?

A software developer, Joshua Nozzi tweeted “BE CAREFUL WITH FACEAPP” warning users of potential privacy violations.

The tweet apparently gained more likes and shares that even US Senator Chuck Schumer of New York asked FBI and FTC to investigate the photo-manipulating application. The politician was completely alarmed, especially because Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election. 

Thankfully, security researcher, Robert Baptiste analyzed the product and tweeted “No, they are not uploading your photos to their server. They upload only the photo you are working on.”

In addition, FaceApp also explained to Mashable how the user’s photo editing is done. The photo the user selects for editing is uploaded to a server, which applies the filter and gets deleted after 3 days. 

On the other hand, Nozzi has deleted his original tweets but continues to believe the failure of the app to completely walk-through users on how it works. He claims that the app fails to inform users about having the photos selected by the users to be uploaded to company servers. 

FaceApp, however, said that they allow users to remove their data from the servers. Moreover, the team informed Mashable:

“Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using ‘Settings > Support > Report a bug’ with the word ‘privacy’ in the subject line. We are working on the better UI for that.”

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