Viral Russian FaceApp Now Owns the Personal Data of Over 150 Million People
Smartphone ageing photo filter app has gone viral on social media but is owned by Russia
The smartphone app FaceApp has recently gone viral across social media as people all over the world use the eerie photo filter, which uses AI to digitally age your face, to share hilarious images of how they will look in the future.
Millions have been taking to social media sharing their sagging simulacrum, including celebrities such as Drake, the Jonas Brothers, and Kevin Hart, who in turn, trigger even more downloads of the app and FaceApp photo shares.
Experts are now warning, however, that the free “old age filter,” created in 2017 by developers at Wireless Lab in St. Petersburg, Russia, is posing major security concerns due to the levels of access the app has to your personal information and identity.
The Russian app is currently one of the most downloaded in the world, with fans on social media using the hashtag #faceappchallenge to share their results.
As people are downloading and using the app, they have been giving FaceApp the power to use their pictures, names, and identities, along with unnerving access to their devices — for any purpose it wishes, for as long as it desires.
FaceApp, which you grant permission to access your photo gallery when you install the app, also includes disturbing clauses buried in their Terms and Conditions.
According to the New York Post, that means that your face could end up being commercialized — or worse.
UK-based Digitas strategist James Whatley said on Twitter, “You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable… royalty-free… license to use, adapt, publish, distribute your user content… in all media formats… when you post or otherwise share.”
That means they can also use your real name, your username or “any likeness provided” in any format without notifying, much less paying, you.
They can retain that material as long as they want, even after you delete the app, and you won’t be able to stop them.
Even those who set their Apple iOS photo permissions to “never,” as Tech Crunch points out, are not protected against the terms.
Security expert Ariel Hochstadt told Daily Mail that hackers, who are not infrequently agents of the Russian government, can log the websites visited and “the activities they perform in those websites,” though they might not know the identity of the person being tracked.
But when we also give them access to our phone’s camera, they can “secretly record” someone — who could be a targeted or prosecuted member of society, says Hochstadt, such as “a young gay person.”
Now the hackers (and Russian government by proxy) can cross-reference your face and phone information with the websites you’re using.
Hochstadt continues, “They also know who this image is, with the huge database they created of Facebook accounts and faces, and the data they have on that person is both private and accurate to the name, city and other details found on Facebook.”
Even if hackers aren’t exactly working with the Russian government, says Hochstadt, “With so many breaches, they can get information and hack cameras that are out there, and be able to create a database of people all over the world, with information these people didn’t imagine is collected on them.”
Eventually, technology expert Steve Sammartino believes, your face will also be used to access even more critical private information, such as banking credentials.
“Your face is now a form of copyright where you need to be really careful who you give permission to access your biometric data,” he tells journalist Ben Fordham.
“If you start using that willy-nilly, in the future when we’re using our face to access things, like our money and credit cards, then what we’ve done is we’ve handed the keys to others.”