Could FaceApp Be a Massive Privacy Risk? And Is It Safe?

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The ultra-popular app FaceApp is back in the spotlight again thanks to a new face-aging internet challenge. But the app’s popularity begs the question of whether it’s safe.

On that note, there appears to be a few misconceptions about the app’s privacy policies floating around the web. But despite those misconceptions, there could still be some risks. Here’s what you should know.

Harvesting Photos?

A since-deleted tweet by developer Joshua Nozzi raised a small internet panic today when it suggested that FaceApp may be clandestinely uploading photos from user camera rolls to its own servers.

Further sleuthing by security researchers and journalists have found that that isn’t the case. Nozzi has since deleted his tweet, but not before a handful of news outlets reported the story.

FaceApp, for its part, said it only stores uploaded photos in the cloud for “performance and traffic” and that it deletes most images within 48 hours.

The company added that it doesn’t upload any images from a user’s camera roll except the one a user uploads and that none of the user data is actually transferred to its servers in Russia (its photo processing servers are actually U.S.-based).

In other words, FaceApp is not harvesting your photos for nefarious purposes. Or, at the very least, there isn’t any evidence that it is.

The Real Privacy Risks

Despite the fact that FaceApp isn’t mass-collecting images from a user’s camera roll, there still could be privacy risks associated with the platform — and other platforms like it.

For one, FaceApp actually does send single images back to its servers for processing. That’s not an obvious fact about the platform.

Similarly, FaceApp’s privacy policy uses vague language that could potentially allow it to use your username, actual name and likeness for commercial purposes. That’s obviously not in compliance with Europe’s GDPR.

There’s also no easy option for users to delete their images from FaceApp’s servers (and no guarantee that FaceApp removes them in a timely or efficient manner). FaceApp does accept requests to remove user data (via Settings > Support > Report a bug), but its team is currently “overloaded.”

All in all, FaceApp isn’t an especially worrying platform as far as privacy, but its policies do illustrate an important point. You should realize that there are probably quite a few other apps on your iPhone that have similar (or even worse) privacy risks.

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