FaceApp: is there a risk to your privacy and your data?

a Few wrinkles more, hair less, and often a good laugh. In just a few clicks, the mobile application FaceApp managed to age extremely compelling faces of its us

FaceApp: is there a risk to your privacy and your data?

a Few wrinkles more, hair less, and often a good laugh. In just a few clicks, the mobile application FaceApp managed to age extremely compelling faces of its users. A challenge popular on social networks, the logo FaceApp appears everywhere. After Visibrain, more than 151,000 publications Instagram and nearly 60,000 Twitter posts related to it, via the term #AgeChallenge. FaceApp is currently the first photo app most downloaded on Google Play (the store for Android smartphones), and the fourth in all categories in the Hexagon. She is also first in all categories on the App Store, the online store of the iPhone. Many are unaware, however, that the use of the application is not without consequences for their private life.

● what is FaceApp?

The application FaceApp was launched in January 2017 by the Russian engineer Yaroslav Goncharov. Prior to that, he worked for the search engine Yandex and Microsoft. FaceApp employs a team of about four people in Saint-Petersburg. The application allows you to perform retouching images in an automatic way. "This allows you to append a smile, to change the gender and / or ethnic origin, or just making yourself more attractive", explained its creator the media The Verge in 2017. The application was already became viral there are about two years, proposing to change the gender of users from a single image, or to add smiles to the works of art It had also sparked a controversy by 2018 by offering to change the color of the skin automatically.

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● How it works?

the company uses facial recognition and applies its special effects thanks to an algorithm that is based on "neural networks". Popular in the research and development of artificial intelligence, this technique is to imitate the functioning of the human brain that enables a program to manage a very large number of data and to create connections between these data. In the case of FaceApp, the program has analyzed many images of faces and identified the salient features of a female face, male or elderly and then applies these effects in a way that is unique to each face. It is through this technique that the ageing of the faces has a render as realistic on FaceApp.

● What are the privacy risks?

The CEO of FaceApp says that, unlike other applications, the siena doesn't require any permission to access arbitrary system of smartphones and data, such as GPS. On this ground, therefore, it is less problematic than Meitu, an app in china that required the access to the address book or geo-location of its users for simple retouching of images. But FaceApp collect many data, as the majority of applications: IP address, ids, ads and other metadata, collected via a ten tracers of behavioral advertising, a field in the heart of many controversies over privacy.

then Comes the question of the use of the photos. Contrary to what was said some internet users worried, FaceApp can't access all images contained in smartphones and transfer them to its servers, this is confirmed by the French researcher in cyber security-Baptiste Robert. The application requires the consent of the user to access their photo albums and downloads only the one(s) that the user gives to it. FaceApp is obliged to upload the photo on its servers because its algorithms require a computational power that many smartphones are not able to provide. During this step, it appears a window of access request and the user is free to accept or refuse.

It is only once the user has agreed to share his photo that things get complicated. FaceApp accurate as well, in the terms and conditions of use, that the sharing of the image returns to assign its rights on its property. Yaroslav Goncharov, CEO of FaceApp, is designated as the legal officer of the company. It is therefore the right to do what he wishes, such as for example use it to train its algorithms, facial recognition, or in the worst case, put them on an advertising medium.

In addition, the privacy policy of FaceApp is not in conformity with the european laws in force. In fact, it is stated that the data collected may be transferred outside of Europe where FaceApp provides infrastructure and that they will therefore be subject to the laws in force in those States. However, the principle of the general regulation on data protection (RGPD) in Europe is precisely to ensure that a european citizen has the same level of protection of privacy, regardless of the country where its data flows.

However, FaceApp is far from being the only company to have terms of use, also permissive with user data. Twitter, Snapchat, or even Facebook also consider that once a user post something on their network and has agreed to their policies of use, this content belongs to them. Technology companies are often tempted to use pictures of faces to train their algorithms for facial recognition, that they need to eat a variety of data to fine-tune their relevance. Recently, it giant IBM which has made pin to have used the images of millions of people on Flickr to train the software. With or without the consent, it is difficult to know what is done with the images shared on the Internet.

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Updated Date: 20 July 2019, 00:00

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