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May 17, 2020
HomeDigital SocietyThe FaceApp challenge: what you need to know

The FaceApp challenge: what you need to know

If you’ve been on social media recently, you may have noticed that every person you know is suddenly 60 years of age or older. Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media, especially Instagram. This “challenge” involves downloading a photo editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your old self on social media and feel good about yourself from gathering a few likes and comments. A lot of Nigerian celebrities and Instagram users have cashed in on the buzz and shared pictures of their aged self. From Alibaba to Wizkid, Davido, Tonto, Don Jazzy, Dr Sid etc have used the FaceApp to share pictures of how they would look at old age. The app is nothing new though. It has actually been around since 2017 but only recently gotten attention from the internet at large.

As the app soared in popularity, privacy concerns also escalated especially as people started to point out that FaceApp is Russian. The company’s terms of service appear to give FaceApp permission to do anything it wants with your pictures:

“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.”

So should you be worried about FaceApp? Off course you should. But not necessarily more than any other app you let into your phone. So does this mean everything is fine? Should you feel free to partake in the #faceappchallenge without worrying about your photos being misused? Well, no, not exactly. According to FaceApp’s terms of service excerpts above, when you use the app you grant it a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide” license to do whatever it wants with your photos. However, while this may be unpleasant, it’s worth pointing out that it’s no different from the privacy policy of basically every other tech service out there.

Facebook’s terms of service for example, also says that “when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Products, you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, and worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings).”

If you are not eager to partake in the #faceappchallenge because of privacy concerns, that’s smart move. However, chances are your face is already in a database somewhere, helping to train artificial intelligence (AI) to take over the world. Most of the free apps you download aren’t really free. They come at a cost. They harvest a lot of your personal information in exchange for the free app.

You need to consider the kind of information your app collects from you before you decide to let them into your device. Think twice about who you give it to, regardless of what country they’re located. Surveillance is the business model of the Internet – you get something for free in return for targeted adds. You will soon realize that your pictures no longer belong to you, they’ve been commoditized. But off course most people don’t really care. FaceApp’s viral popularity in recent days is just another example of how the internet users are oblivious of their online privacy.

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