You may have noticed a new craze on social media this week. A craze which sees people uploading edited images of themselves, appearing to show them as elderly people. This is done via an app called FaceApp. Thousands of people have been using it, however security concerns have been raised.
Firstly, let’s explain what the app is. We’ll then look into the problems.
FaceApp is a mobile application that allows users to edit photographs. Alongside the now-infamous ageing technique, you’re also able to turn blank or grumpy expressions into smiley ones, and edit make-up styles.
This is done using artificial intelligence, or AI as you may be more familiar with. This system takes the input picture of your face and adjusts it based on other imagery.
The results of the ageing process have caused quite the stir. It’s what’s known in the internet world as a viral phenomenon. Thousands of people have aged themselves via FaceApp, including celebrities and sports personalities.
It seems like harmless fun, right? However, professionals are now worried about the security of your data.
What’s the Problem?
Experts are questioning what the creators of the app are doing with your information. The creators of the app are Wireless Lab, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg. Several concerns have already been raised.
- Rumours of the app uploading images from people’s smartphones without permission.
- The app may be using data gathered from user photos to train facial recognition algorithms. This can be done even after the photos themselves are deleted because measurements of features on a person’s face can be extracted and used for such purposes.
- Confusion over why the app needs to upload any photographs at all. It’s said that, in theory, the app could process images locally on smartphones, instead of sending them to the cloud. This is a server that stores user photos.
- Warnings about user data which aren’t obvious to the user.
FaceApp have responded to concerns. You can read the response on the BBC News article.
Since the initial concerns were raised, things have escalated further. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has now called for an official investigation. He posted a latter onto Twitter, raising his own concerns about FaceApp. As a result, he’s asked the FBI and Federal Trade Commission to investigate.
The Democratic National Committee have reportedly warned 2020 presidential candidates and their campaigners not to use the app.
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