FaceApp users continue to ignore privacy concerns

Before you jump back on the FaceApp bandwagon, you might want to review the controversial app's terms of service.


For whatever reason, people love taking pictures of themselves. Call it vanity, call it a smooth segue into social networking, but it's one of the most common uses of the Internet and mobile technology. It's also the reason why apps like FaceApp have become so tremendously popular. Instead of adding dog ears or a pacifier or some other garbage to their photos, FaceApp allows users to digitally alter their selfies to change their appearance, expressions, even their age.

That's all well and good; you paid for your phone, you deserve to have some fun with it. But what all those hip age-swapping photos you've seen online neglect to mention is that FaceApp's terms of service basically give the Russian developers at FaceApp Inc carte blanche rights to user's photographs.

We're not going to beat around the bush here: Several reports have been posted online saying just how big of a privacy concern FaceApp has become. Even worse, this isn't the first time the app has been in the news: Just a few years back, FaceApp caught quite a stink for its controversial race-swapping filters.

FaceApp users continue to ignore privacy concerns - age swap filter

Fast forward to 2019, and FaceApp is riding a viral wave that sees countless users taking selfies and adjusting their ages, typically in an effort to look as gross and wrinkly as possible. And yet too few users are actually reading the application's terms of service, wherein FaceApp Inc. basically says "your photos are ours to use as we please." Here are the important bits, as outlined on FaceApp's own website, under section 5:

"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."

FaceApp security privacy concerns image rights

To make matters worse, it appears the app itself doesn't exactly play nice with mobile operating system permissions. In particular, users are finding that the app can display and enhance photos even when it's denied all access to the user's photo library. Given that all processing is done on the cloud, FaceApp gets access to the original image and the altered version, as well as any possible or potential variation in between.

In summation, it appears users have very little control over which photos FaceApp has access to, and by installing the app, users agree that FaceApp Inc. can do whatever it wants with their images, their names, and their likenesses. Your viral selfie might be used to make the company thousands or even millions of dollars, and not only would you never see a dime, you'd have zero control over how your likeness is used, in perpetuity.

And that's all possible even if the photo isn't posted publically online.

Fun as it might be to change your age using FaceApp, the mobile software itself has been red flagged many times by security-conscious users and activist groups alike. With terms of service as broad as these, and with rather unscrupulous practices on the software side, mobile users would be wise to think twice before installing FaceApp. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Guides Editor

Kevin Tucker is a core component of Shacknews' powerful guide development team. For questions, concerns, tips, or to share constructive criticism, he can be reached on Twitter @dukeofgnar or through e-mail at kevin.tucker@shacknews.com.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 17, 2019 12:20 PM

    Kevin Tucker posted a new article, FaceApp users continue to ignore privacy concerns

    • reply
      July 17, 2019 12:31 PM

      How is this necessarily enforceable though? Ie, how would they know that the person who agreed to the EULA is the same person who’s picture is being uploaded?

      For example, just because I download the app, agree to the TOS, and then upload a picture of someone else doesn’t mean they now own the likeness of that other person who never agreed to it; I can’t agree to that on their behalf.

      • reply
        July 17, 2019 12:35 PM

        Yes you can and since it's Russia, you have almost no recourse with the current US Government.

        • reply
          July 17, 2019 12:36 PM

          If we go off the assumption of “it’s Russia, laws don’t matter” then the whole thing is moot and they could just scrape Facebook/instagram/google etc anyway

          • reply
            July 17, 2019 12:38 PM

            What's better? Scraping your facebook profile or scraping your phone with an installed app?

            • reply
              July 17, 2019 12:41 PM

              My point is that if we’re just assuming that the law won’t matter then it doesn’t matter what the TOS says or doesn’t say, they could just the same say “we have no rights to your images”, making the fact that they’re claiming the opposite moot.

              If we’re worried about what’s actually in the TOS, then that only applies if we’re assuming there’s a functioning legal framework for them to exist in, and if there is a functioning legal framework they exist in then it just circled back to my original question of how they can know if the person they have an image of is the same person who agreed to their TOS in the first place.

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