What is FaceApp actually doing with your data?
FaceApp has got a lot of attention lately, firstly for being the hottest new app that everyone, celebrities alike, are using. Secondly though, it's got a lot of coverage over some eye-brow raising stipulations in the T&Cs none of us read. What exactly are they doing with those 150 million faces?
Esquire Middle East has been hot on the tail of the FaceApp craze, talking about both all the celebrities making themselves old, and also highlighting the somewhat scary lines of text in the terms and conditions.
This time round, we're going to look into exactly what the Russian app is doing with your pretty pretty pictures that you really, 'REALLY' rather wouldn't stay on the internet for eternity.
The bit everyone gets nervous about (and rightly so) is this:
"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."
We'll admit, this does sound quite sinister, it seems like they quite literally own your face after all. A lot of people are also nervous about the whole processing photos on their own servers thing too.
Not to point fingers at all but FaceApp being Russian might be scaring people a bit more than if it were an app from another country that has fewer privacy related scandals.
“People freaked out because the company behind FaceApp is Russian,” French security researcher Baptiste Robert said to Buzzfeed News. “What I’m trying to say is: It’s fine to be suspicious, but don’t accuse without any proof, and here we don’t have the technical proof to be yelling about a scandal.”
The images aren't processed directly on you phone as this would actually result in a worse experience for the user. It would take longer and burn up your battery. Having the processing done in a different server hides the processing code from competitors wanting to make apps like FaceApp. It's said to be more of a buisness tactic than some Russian spy thing.
I can see why FaceApp choose to upload user's photo to their server and process them in their server:
From a business perspective, hiding the photo processing code in their server makes it hard for potential competitors from copying. It also makes piracy harder— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) July 17, 2019
It is also explained that “most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date,” said chief executive of FaceApp, Yaroslav Goncharov.
The T&Cs also states that the data will be used to “develop and test new products and features.”, mysterious we know, but it likely points towards development in facial recognition of some sort.
The most annoying thing to come from this data hoovering is ads. It's said that the data, so 150 million faces, can be used to help with targeted ads. It embeds Google Admob on your phone, what this means is that you'll likely start getting more ads pop up that are catered by the data from FaceApp.
It isn't known what ads these will be. Maybe sunglasses, skincare, hats?