I get it. It’s fun to see into the future to see what you look like. And it’s also fun to jump on the bandwagon when every other image on your feed is a very realistic picture of your friends in 40 years. So you want to download this free app. But before you do, know that the Face App does come with a pretty crazy cost buried in its Terms and Service agreement. In fact, many of your favorite social media apps do, but we’ll use FaceApp as an example.
The AI photo editor is created by a Russian company called “Wireless Lab”. Now I’m not saying Russian apps are bad, but I’m not not saying it’s okay that your images are being sent to Russian serverrs. Some have claimed FaceApp gets access to your entire photo roll (not just the selfie you upload to goof around with), but we haven’t found any evidence of that.
That aside, it’s pretty alarming what is happening to the photo(s) that you do choose to upload. I get that about 1% of us actually read Terms and Service agreement before we click “agree”. But when you do (or did) click “agree”, you give FaceApp — and we’re quoting directly here — “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.”
In lawyer-speak, that means your photo basically belongs to Wireless Lab for all time and anyone they want to give it to, to do whatever they want with. They can legally claim you agree they can send or sell your image(s) to whomever they like. And with that image(s), they or anyone else can do quite a few different things with that photo.
This Russian company has unlimited access to your photos, and anyone else they allow, to sell or use however they like, forever.
Well, what kind of things? We’re not sure. It could mean you’re image is used on a Coca Cola advertisement in Moscow or in commercials. But far more likely your photos being used for digital experiments.
You know CAPTCHAS, where you have to prove you’re a human by typing letters? That was built by a company to help train machines how to digitize old books more accurately. It’s a bit more concerning when photos are in the mix. IBM was caught scandal, using Flickr photos to train AI powered facial recognition software without the users’ knowledge. Similarly, earlier this year, a photo storage app called Ever was caught using photos to help train software sold to law enforcement agencies.
FaceApp isn’t the only app to go viral and try to mine your data. But it’s a good case study as to how companies like FaceApp, Facebook, Instagram, etc. can mine and own your personal information for reasons that may not be clear even to them. The main goal for them, and the big profit driver, is to mine as much data as they can and see how they can profit off of it in the future (hence the “forever, in perpetuity” in the agreement). That’s as good a reason as any to think twice before giving them your information.