Is FaceApp Storing Users’ Photos?

You’ve probably seen images of celebrities who have used FaceApp to see what they will look like when they are older. Before you give FaceApp a try, you should be aware of concerns about what the app could be doing with people’s photos.

The Guardian spoke with the FaceApp CEO, Yaroslav Goncharov, who said that only a single picture specifically chosen by the user would be uploaded from a phone and the app did not harvest a user’s entire photo library. The Guardian said this claim was backed by researchers.

Goncharov said the data was never transferred to Russia and was instead stored on US-controlled cloud computing services provided by Amazon and Google. The developer insisted that users had the right to request their photographs be removed from the server. Goncharov said his company does not share any user data with any third parties.

The Guardian rightly pointed out: “However, users ultimately have to rely on the word of the developer that the images are being removed from the system.”

CNN reported that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sent a security alert to 2020 presidential campaigns not to use FaceApp. Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer, recommended “campaign staff and people in the Democratic ecosystem” should not use the app. He added “If you or any of your staff have already used the app, we recommend that they delete the app immediately.”

The Independent reported part of FaceApp’s terms of service:

“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 Contenting in all media formats and channels now known or later developed without compensation to you.”

In addition, the Independent reported that FaceApp’s privacy policy “makes it clear that it is able to collect and store information from your phone and that it might be used for ads or other forms or marketing.”

It does not appear that the photos you give it are being harvested by Russia. That said, I personally don’t feel like FaceApp is making it clear to users how their photos will be used, or what information it can glean from their phones. This bothers me enough to steer clear of the app.