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FaceApp: The Trending App that Risks Security

5 minuteminutos readde lectura
Gabriela Patrón
ByPor Gabriela Patrón

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Although it has already been on the market for two years, the application made headlines this week, due to a very particular filter and it’s security risks. 

A few days ago, thousands of aged faces flooded Twitter and Instagram with their headshots, together with the hashtag #FaceAppChallenge. Influencers and Youtubers around the world shared their results using a new filter from the program, FaceApp. This application, available for Android and iOS, has already been on the market for two years. But it returned with a vengeance this week, due to its new ‘age’ mode.

How does FaceApp function? 

The application was created two years ago by Russian engineer, Yaroslav Goncharov, for the company he manages, Wireless Lab. This program uses biometrics to get details on users’ facial features, offering a well-made final image. It is able to perform this function by using the smartphone’s front camera and photo gallery. 

To date, there are 21 beauty filters, allowing changes in hairdos, makeup, facial hair, and even glasses. Many users have gone to FaceApp in search of a new look; although its popularity mainly resides in the filters that change sex and age. 

What is dangerous about this app?

Facebook’s privacy policy hasn’t been updated since 2017, and features many worrying details. By accepting the application’s Terms and Conditions, the first thing collected is user-generated information like photos and videos. Then, it mines for information about the person’s behavior, in order to offer her/him personalized advertisements. Since the app is free, it needs also to be lucrative by offering advertising spaces. It also gathers information like location, data registry, and phone usage identifiers. 

According to Wireless Lab, they don’t sell this information to third parties, but it is available to the providers that offer them services. When users create photos using the app’s filters, they are automatically giving the company rights to use it without explicit permission. 

FaceApp also assures that its information is processed and stored in the United States. However, it can at any time be sent to a different country. There are countries whose legislation regarding data protection is much less strict– and your information could be used for certain means to a less-than-innocent end. This can add another level of security risks.

What’s affected when third parties use my photos? 

Biometrics are used by many applications useful to our daily lives.  For example, China uses a complex system of data mining, scanning millions of photos per second. This software can alert police about the presence of criminals or missing persons. Walmart also has a facial recognition system that allows for better customer service, reading facial patterns to determine buyers’ moods. 

Without going too far, top-notch phones like the iPhone X or the newest Samsung models use facial recognition to unblock the phone, and also for animated emojis. This way, we can personalize messages or avoid someone breaking into our phones. 

On the negative side, your face can be used as a model for a scam. A technology exists known as DeepFake, which uses artificial intelligence to recreate someone’s voice and appearance. With access to FaceApp’s photos and videos on your cell phone, it’s easy to simulate your virtual clone.  

Your face can also be used to open bank accounts or make purchases. For example, in Madrid, tests are being run to pay for transportation using biometrics. 

So, just as you’re careful to not give sensitive information like your address, id number, or monthly salary; our biometric data should also be well-guarded. We can’t prohibit you from using the app, but we do challenge you to think twice before giving permission that could jeopardize your private in information as future security risks.