Russians now own all your old photos
Scroll through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and you'll see everyone from colleagues to celebrities in a way you've never seen them before - significantly aged.
They're taking part in a viral trend that has, for a second time, swept across the internet.
Face App invites users to "transform your face using Artificial Intelligence with just one tap!"
"Add a beautiful smile," it says. "Get younger or older."
It's all a bit of harmless fun, right? Well, not exactly.
According to the terms and conditions users agree to when they purchase the app, they "grant Face App a perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide" license to "use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute and display your content".
Lawyer Elizabeth Potts Weinstein was concerned enough to share a screenshot of the terms with a warning.
"If you use Face App you are giving them a license to use your photos, your name, your username, and your likeness for any purpose including commercial purposes (like on a billboard or internet ad)," she wrote on Twitter. Her tweet has been retweeted almost 5000 times.
If you use #FaceApp you are giving them a license to use your photos, your name, your username, and your likeness for any purpose including commercial purposes (like on a billboard or internet ad) -- see their Terms: https://t.co/e0sTgzowoN pic.twitter.com/XzYxRdXZ9q— Elizabeth Potts Weinstein (@ElizabethPW) July 17, 2019
She noted that the address for the business behind Face App is in Russia.
"It says that your data can be transferred to any location where they have a facility … which means Russia," she wrote.
Others expressed specific concerns that Face App was able to access their photo libraries in the background.
Re: FaceApp, can’t speak to it “uploading” photos but the app is definitely able to access my library even though I have Photos permission set to “never” 🤔 pic.twitter.com/jDMkqu5nML— Karissa Bell (@karissabe) July 16, 2019
UK-based Digitas strategist James Whatley said on Twitter, "You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable… royalty-free… license to use, adapt, publish, distribute your user content… in all media formats… when you post or otherwise share."
That means they can also use your real name, your username or "any likeness provided" in any format without notifying, much less paying, you. They can retain that material as long as they want, even after you delete the app, and you won't be able to stop them. Even those who set their Apple iOS photo permissions to "never," as Tech Crunch points out, are not protected against the terms.
Security expert Ariel Hochstadt told Daily Mail that hackers, who are not infrequently agents of the Russian government, can log the websites visited and "the activities they perform in those websites," though they might not know the identity of the person being tracked.
But when we also give them access to our phone's camera, they can "secretly record" someone - who could be a targeted or prosecuted member of society, says Hochstadt, such as "a young gay person." Now the hackers (and Russian government by proxy) can cross-reference your face and phone information with the websites you're using.
Hochstadt continues, "They also know who this image is, with the huge database they created of Facebook accounts and faces, and the data they have on that person is both private and accurate to the name, city and other details found on Facebook."
Even if hackers aren't exactly working with the Russian government, says Hochstadt, "With so many breaches, they can get information and hack cameras that are out there, and be able to create a database of people all over the world, with information these people didn't imagine is collected on them."
Eventually, technology expert Steve Sammartino believes, your face will also be used to access even more critical private information, such as banking credentials.
"Your face is now a form of copyright where you need to be really careful who you give permission to access your biometric data," he tells journalist Ben Fordham.
"If you start using that willy-nilly, in the future when we're using our face to access things, like our money and credit cards, then what we've done is we've handed the keys to others."
For what it's worth, users on the whole are loving the app. It has a 4.8-star rating from more than a million reviews on Google.
Purchase at your own risk.