Why FaceApp Doesn’t Matter

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FaceApp, a service designed to process and filter photos in various ways, has recently gained popularity due to the addition of a new filter, then gained media attention due to revelations that it was created and operated by a Russian company. While concerns about user privacy are warranted, and even admirable, ultimately the FaceApp situation is a non-issue.

The controversy is not simply that FaceApp is Russian owned, although it likely wouldn’t have blown up as much as it has if not for that fact. The main concern, however, is claims that FaceApp uploads a user’s entire photo library to FaceApp’s servers. This stems from a now deleted tweet from Joshua Nozzi, claiming that his photo library was being uploaded. This has escalated to the point that Chuck Schumer has asked the FBI and FTC to investigate FaceApp (which, considering Russia is outside the jurisdiction of both the FBI and FTC, is likely to amount to nothing).

So, let’s debunk the privacy concerns surrounding FaceApp. FaceApp’s privacy policy clearly and explicitly states that they do not share user data with third-parties. While they do collect some data, all of it is easily justifiable. For example, it obviously needs to access the photos you take in order to process them, and tracking user analytics is a very common practice for any website or app you use. As for the uploading of your photos, several security researchers have concluded that there is no evidence to prove the a user’s photo collection is being uploaded. In fact, Joshua Nozzi himself has admitted that he was wrong.

Do note that photos are uploaded as you apply filters to them, but this is because the photo processing is done on FaceApp’s servers rather than on the phone itself. This allows the app to have access to more powerful hardware than that available in a phone, meaning better and faster photo processing. FaceApp has stated that these photos are deleted within 48 hours of uploading, and are only stored to speed up the process of editing the same photo more than once. They’ve also added that, while the app is developed in Russia, the photo processing is not performed in Russia, meaning nothing is uploaded to Russian servers.

If you’ve used FaceApp and are still concerned about privacy concerns, you can request that the data be deleted by going to “settings -> support -> report a bug” and including the word “privacy” in the subject line. This will prioritize your request to their support team. For future reference, keep in mind that any free app on your phone is tracking some kind of personal data. Read the privacy policy and terms of service of all services you use.

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