Russian FaceApp’s old man filter has made a splash two years after it first went viral thanks to numerous celebrities posting photos of themselves, sharing the app’s results. The app was first created in 2014 and went viral in 2017 when users were obsessed with adding smiles to their photos.
This week, the Face App Challenge brought the app back to life — and it seems as though everybody is giving it a try. Rather than smiles, users are using the “old” filter to age themselves.
Many people have been wondering if the app is safe to use after learning that the app was created in Russia — by a man named Yaroslav Goncharov. Many social media users were in a frenzy by mid-week, wondering if FaceApp was accessing all of their photos and uploading them to its servers. Some even started wondering if FaceApp was a scam.
Thankfully, preliminary reports indicate that the app is indeed safe to use and that users’ photos are not being stolen or stored.
“FaceApp isn’t taking photos of your face and taking them back to Russia for some nefarious project,” Forbes reports. However, there are still some other concerns plaguing some FaceApp users.
Here’s what you need to know:
Photos Uploaded to FaceApp Are Stored on a Server Based in the U.S.
FaceApp is a free app that is available on both iPhone and Android. Once the app is downloaded, a user can upload a photo and begin altering it using different filters. One could add a mustache or eyeglasses, for example.
The filter that is going viral is one that is simply called “old.” This filter ages the photo using artificial intelligence. Hair in the photo may turn white or gray and wrinkles will be added to the face to get the full effect.
Once a user uploads a photo to the app, the photo is stored on a server — and this is where some people seemed to panic. Are photos being stored on a server based in Russia? The answer appears to be “no.”
“A cursory look at hosting records confirmed to Forbes that this was true, the servers for FaceApp.io were based in Amazon data centers in the U.S. And, as noted by Alderson, the app also uses third party code, and so will reach out to their servers, but again these are based in the U.S. and Australia,” Forbes reports.
Are There Privacy Violations With FaceApp? The Company Has Released a Statement Addressing Concerns
As with any application, there are fairly standard concerns with any given user’s privacy. While nothing with FaceApp is super alarming, users should be aware that the app stores metadata from any photos that are uploaded. This is the case with several other apps that you’ve probably been using for years.
“Goncharov also confirmed that photos uploaded to the app are stored on the company’s servers to save bandwidth if several filters are applied, but get deleted not long after. And, he added, unlike the Meitu app, FaceApp doesn’t require any weird system permissions or track data like GPS,” The Verge reported back in 2017.
FaceApp has responded to the concerns of its users and has confirmed that photos are only stored for about 48 hours.
You can read the company’s full statement below:
1. FaceApp performs most of the photo processing in the cloud. We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.
2. We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.
3. We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line. We are working on the better UI for that.
4. All FaceApp features are available without logging in, and you can log in only from the settings screen. As a result, 99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person.
5. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.
6. Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.
Additionally, we’d like to comment on one of the most common concerns: all pictures from the gallery are uploaded to our servers after a user grants access to the photos. … We don’t do that. We upload only a photo selected for editing. You can quickly check this with any of network sniffing tools available on the internet.
There Are Some Concerns About Hackers
As with anything, there is always the possibility that hackers could get into the system and that is also a concern that’s been brought up online. Security expert Ariel Hochstadt told the Daily Mail that if FaceApp was hacked, it could be a potentially major issue.
“Hackers many [times] are able to record the websites that people visit, and the activities they perform [on] those websites, but they don’t always know who are those users. Imagine now they used the phone’s camera to secretly record a young gay person, that visits gay sites, but didn’t yet go public with that, and they connect his face with the websites he is using. They also know who this image is, with the huge DB they created of FB 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 FB. 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,” Hochstadt explained.
There is no evidence that FaceApp has been hacked or that there is any immediate hacking threat.
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