Can FaceApp Sell Our Pics, Monitor Our Browser? Licence Says Yes
Editor: Varun Sharma
Camera: Abhishek Ranjan
Amidst a collective cheer among the global youth upon discovering what they’ll look like at 80, the now viral FaceApp has found itself charged with allegations about violating privacy of its users.
At a time when protests against facial recognition systems are gathering momentum worldwide, concerns with the face-editing app arise regarding how it stores, processes, shares images of our faces as well as other data we generate.
For those who love the app and have had their faces turned older or younger, the questions is – what’s the issue with this seemingly harmless fun?
While there is no denying the ‘fun’ part of the app, to understand the issue of harm, it is wise to take a step back and consider what the app does with our facial images and data.
FaceApp is So Much Fun, What’s the Problem ?
Security researcher, who goes by the pseudonym Elliot Alderson on Twitter, provides the short answer. “Once the photo is uploaded it's not yours anymore,” Alderson told The Quint.
The major privacy questions with FaceApp app are of two kinds:
- What is it doing with millions of face images it is gathering?
- What is it doing with other data – much of which is personally identifiable.
FaceApp claims that by using the app, the user grants a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license...”
A license for what exactly?
The next paragraph of Section 5 contains two important sentences:
- You grant FaceApp consent to use the User Content, regardless of whether it includes an individual’s name, likeness, voice or persona, sufficient to indicate the individual’s identity.
- By using the Services, you agree that the User Content may be used for commercial purposes.
Let’s pause and examine what these sentences imply.
WHAT FOUNDER & CEO GONCHAROV SAID
This is a good point to explore the question of whether and how the app can indeed establish the identity the user:
Can the app establish the identity of the user?
The section also appears to be contradicting itself.
For example, under Section 3 – “Sharing Your Information” – the app states, “We will not rent or sell your information to third parties outside FaceApp (or the group of companies of which FaceApp is a part) without your consent...”
But the same section also states:
This is precisely what Alderson warns users against. “People should be careful with their personal data. If you upload a picture of your face to a random app you don't know how the company behind the app will use it,” Alderson told The Quint.
Uploading & Processing Images in the Cloud
However, in response to The Quint’s queries, Goranchov responded that “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.”
Dismissing a viral tweet from Wednesday, which claimed that the app had access to the entire photo library in our smartphones, Goranchov stated that “this is not true. We only can access a photo user specifically selected for editing.” He also added:
So, What Should We Do Now?
To be fair, FaceApp’s terms and conditions are standard for most apps we download. Snapchat has almost identical provisions but has elicited little attention towards its privacy policies.
A few things to keep in mind are explicitly providing consent by opting in for features and services. Sometimes features are set as opt-in by default and it is important to opt out of them if we do not want them.
Moreover, it is important to not provide access to camera, contacts, messages or call logs if they are not essential to the app’s core functions.
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