Tech Experts Raise Red Flag On Face-Aging App, Say It’s Not What It Appears

China Daily via REUTERS

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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An application allowing people to see what their faces will look like in five decades contains a clause giving developers unfettered access to users’ personal data, experts warn.

FaceApp, released in 2017, makes alterations on a user’s face designed to provide people a glimpse at what they might look like in 50 years. Experts say the Russian-made application can access, store and use camera images.

FaceApp’s terms of service appear to stipulate that the developers can use the images at their leisure. (RELATED: Sen Hawley Proposes Bill Allowing People To Block Tech Companies From Constantly Tracking Their Location)

The App’s terms of service state:

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.

Ariel Hochstadt, a former Gmail marketing manager for Google, said he’s been warning people about apps like FaceApp.

“Hackers many time are able to record the websites that people visit … but they don’t always know who are those users,” he told reporters Wednesday.

Hochstadt added: “Imagine now they used the phone’s camera to secretly record a young gay person, that visits gay sites, but didn’t yet go public with that, and they connect his face with the websites he is using.”

Others are mirroring some of his concerns.

“So, overall, I think it is important that we think carefully about the safeguards put in place to protect photo archives and the motives and methods of the apps we give access to,” TechCrunch editor-in-chief Matthew Panzarino said in a blog post Wednesday discussing the app.

Celebrities and other public officials are making use of the app despite the warnings.

The makers of FaceApp released a statement Wednesday addressing concerns.

“We don’t share any user data with any third parties,” the statement notes before adding: “Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.”

Tech companies have used similar apps to help guide their facial recognition technology. Microsoft revealed its app in 2015, which would guess a person’s age based on a selfie. It turned out to be a showcase the company’s facial recognition technology.

Amazon followed suit in 2017 with its Rekognition API — the same technology used by law enforcement. Critics say such technologies carry a huge risk as they are guarded and the companies that deploy them shy away from providing too much information about their use.

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