What can FaceApp do with the 150+ million people’s images and names?

Helena Grech - 18th July 2019

After the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it seems that people are no less willing to give up their data.

The latest craze has seen people from all over the globe give a popular app, FaceApp, access to their images in order to manipulate their features. Many have taken to sharing images of what they would look like at old age, or if they were the opposite sex.

FaceApp is not new to the market and people have been giving it access to their images for several years. According to the app’s terms of use, it has the power to do whatever it wishes with the images and names of users, for whichever purpose it desires, without any time limitations.

The terms of agreement say:

“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.”

Forbes reports that 100 million people have downloaded the app from the Google Play store. It goes on to report that the number one ranked app on the iOS App store in 121 countries is none other than FaceApp.

The terms of service highlights that people still own their “user content”, however the company owns a perpetual and irrevocable, royalty-free licence to do whatever they wish to with users' images and usernames.

Concerns arise as to whether the massive data set could at some point be used to train a facial-recognition algorithm.

While there has so far been no reason to believe that the company behind the app has used the data in any untoward way, last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal could have been a lesson towards being more careful as to how users share their data and more importantly, access to their data. 

A third-party app on Facebook had given Cambridge Analytica, a political strategist company, access to millions of people’s data, without the data-subject’s prior knowledge or approval.

Critics of FaceApp have warned that for the app to work, it must be given access to all of a user’s photos, while also gaining access to Siri and Search. While the app has not been accused of doing anything inappropriate with the data, critics continue to warn the public to think twice before giving third-parties access to their most personal device, the mobile.

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What can FaceApp do with the 150+ million people’s images and names?