• The FaceApp Challenge has been spreading across social media over the last week
  • FaceApp has been around since 2017 and has gone viral a few times since its creation
  • Russian company Wireless Labs is the parent company of the popular mobile app
  • The terms of service agreement has reason for concern but is also similar to American made third party apps

If you are on social media you have most likely seen pictures of your friends altered to make them look old and had a chuckle. You might have also seen some people concerned the app behind the photos FaceApp is stealing identities for their Russian parent company Wireless Labs.

The FaceApp Challenge

The app became a viral trend once again with the help of the #FaceAppChallenge. FaceApp currently has over a million downloads from the Google Play Store. Following the app’s success, on Wednesday concerns began spreading on social media that users had given the app too much access to their devices. While the reality of the situation may not be as bad as some of the deeper conspiracies have gone, it still is not all that great.

The reason for concern is the terms of service for FaceApp. If you agree to the FaceApp terms of service, you allow the company to do anything they want with your images through a never-ending, irrevocable and royalty-free agreement. This does not necessarily mean the Russian company Wireless Labs is going to do something nefarious with your photo or information. It just means they could if they wanted to.

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.

FaceApp Terms Of Service

Is Wireless Labs A Russian Company

The second reason for concern began once word spread the company behind FaceApp is a Russian company. It is likely this concern is due to the trigger word Russia has become in America due to the long and drawn out “Mueller Report.” What many people do not realize is that FaceApp has existed since 2017 and the app has gone viral before. Yaroslav Goncharov started the app’s parent company Wireless Labs in 2013 in Russia’s St. Petersburg. In 2018, the company moved to Skolkovo. Skolkovo is a city near Moscow often referred to as Russia’s Silicon Valley.

According to an interview with Afisha Daily, Goncharov created FaceApp in 2017 during a “junction of two important trends.” In America, Goncharov worked at Microsoft during the day and created his first neural network in the evening about ten years ago. After working on several projects over the years, Goncharov decided to “use this progressive technology for photo processing” and FaceApp was created.

FaceApp was born at the junction of two important trends. The first is the ever-growing value of photos and videos. There is an opinion that stories from Snapchat, Instagram and their analogues will soon kill news feeds like Twitter . Facebook is already moving in that direction. The second trend is neural networks. So called the simplified analogue of the human brain, implemented in computer code. To create it, they build a huge network of software simulations of neurons and synapses, capable of analyzing and storing information. Such technologies underlie machine learning, artificial intelligence, cybernetics, and much more. I have been doing this for quite some time now – I trained the first neural network about ten years ago.

I worked at Microsoft in Redmond, USA, and in the evenings I wrote a bot with whom I could play poker. The neural network was only a small, estimated part of this bot – the possibilities to create a solution entirely based on the neural network, then there was not. After that, I worked on several projects related to in-depth training, on a project related to speech analysis. And about a year ago I decided to use this progressive technology for photo processing. This is how FaceApp turned out.

Yaroslav Goncharov Via Afisha Daily

Should You Continue To Use FaceApp

At the end of the day, it boils down to your personal feelings on sharing your data. The terms of services are bad but in ways are not much worse than the terms of service for many American companies. As VICE reports, a plethora of American-owned third party weather, horoscope and fitness apps have very similar terms of service agreements. However, there are some significant differences.

For one, FaceApp gains access to a user’s entire camera roll instead of requesting access to the pictures you are using on the app. FaceApp will also grab personal information through your “cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data and usage data,” then claims to hand the data they retrieve over to “Affiliates,” “Service Providers” and “third-party advertising partners.” According to the privacy policy, this gives “third-party ad networks” the ability to “deliver targeted advertisements that they believe will be of most interest to you.” In other words, yes, FaceApp is taking your data to possibly hand it over to vaguely defined third-party companies.

FaceApp provided TechCrunch with a statement addressing some of the concerns from users. The company claims they only use photos you upload for editing. “We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud,” the statement reads. As of now, security tests have not found the company is uploading images from a camera roll. FaceApp claims they store most images on the cloud for 48 hours to ensure one user is not uploading the same photo repeatedly for different edits. “Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date,” the statement reads.

We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. 

FaceApp Statement Via TechCrunch

The company says they do accept requests from users to remove all their data from their servers. However, the company also says their “support team is currently overloaded.” Despite being overwhelmed, FaceApp claims the requests are still a priority. The statement says the features from the app can be used without logging in, which has resulted in 99% of users not using their login. FaceApp claims they do not sell any user data to third parties and the data is not transferred to Russia. The company states again at the end of the statement they only upload images selected by the user and even suggest to check them out with any network sniffing tools available.

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