Can FaceApp abuse user data while aging faces?

Data security experts say FaceApp users may be giving access to a lot of data stored on their phones, and that not all understand the nuances of the terms of service

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jul 19, 2019 8:27 AM

Have you taken part in the FaceApp challenge yet? If not, you might want to think twice. The Russian app that first went viral back in 2017 has resurfaced with more ageing faces and a dozen questions on data security.  

While Bollywood celebrities, the Indian cricket team and literally every social media user is going gaga with FaceApp flaunting pictures of how they’d look when they grow old, the free access users are granting the app shows netizens still don’t take data security too seriously.

App analytics and market data platform App Annie says that with over 100,000 million people having downloaded FaceApp from Google Play, it is now the top-ranked app on the iOS App Store in 121 countries. Data security experts have expressed concern over whether this app, which has captured the global market in just a matter of few days, is doing more than just ageing faces with the help of Artificial Intelligence.

What could the concerns be? 

The first worry is the app’s terms of service that says: ‘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 in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you. When you post or otherwise share User Content on or through our Services, you understand that your User Content and any associated information (such as your [username], location or profile photo) will be visible to the public.’

This could mean a user gives access to a lot of data stored on one’s phone to the platform without knowing. After all not many understand the nuances of the terms of service. Let alone FaceApp, which is still a newbie in the market, how many avid Facebook users actually know that the platform clearly and openly in their terms of service says “When you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Products, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings). This means, for example, that if you share a photo on Facebook, you give us permission to store, copy, and share it with others (again, consistent with your settings) such as service providers that support our service or other Facebook Products you use.”
Clearly there aren’t many takers for ‘Terms of Service’ as netizens invest most of their energy in garnering likes, shares and comments. 

According to Alvin Rodrigues, Senior Director, Security Strategist, Forcepoint, “The face is your personal copyright. From a security perspective, you are giving away your ability to use your face as a password to log files or to lock your devices. Like how several mobile companies are currently using facial recognition technology to allow users’ to lock their phones. This facial password, your face, is something that cannot change. It is personal and permanent. Secondly, the photographs being uploaded to the cloud are at risk of being targeted by hackers who may use them for running facial identification to compromise individuals and companies.”

“By using the app, we may be surrendering copyright to our face and there are implications of reselling your face or reusing your face for commercial applications.”

On what should the consumers watch out for, Rodrigues said consumers must be careful when reading the terms and conditions to totally understand what they are getting themselves into.

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