FaceApp — Face Off: A Privacy Time Bomb?

AXEL
AXEL
Jul 19 · 4 min read

What if I told you that there was a massive data collection scheme to capture every single person’s face and put them into a giant database to use in facial recognition surveillance programs?

You’d say I was crazy. There is no way anyone, even the government, could go take pictures of all 300,000,000+ Americans, especially without us knowing.

And you know what? You’re right.

That would be a monumental undertaking, millions of people would have to voluntarily upload pictures of themselves tied to personal accounts and th-

Oh, oh no.

Please don’t tell me you’ve been downloading random apps again because they do funny things like make you look older?

You do know that app can take every single photo on your phone and look through them, right? Not ones you uploaded, not ones you knew about.

Every. Single. Photo.

But it’s not without your permission, and that’s the most worrying part. Buried deep in that terms of use agreement you clicked “okay” to, were some very nefarious clauses. I’m not saying that the app is doing that and sending your photos off to some centralized database to kickstart 1984. What I am saying though, is that it can. And that’s a dangerous power for anyone, much less a random tech company, to have.

It really doesn’t matter who is collecting this data though, that’s not the problem. The problem is us wantonly giving unknown people, companies, and governments, access to the sort of information 1984’s Big Brother could only dream of having.

As users, we need to take a stand against these sorts of one-sided terms of service agreements and take responsibility for our data. It may be a different way of thinking at first, but if we as consumers and individuals value our privacy, there’s no way around it.

The first step is actually reading the contracts we sign. Companies like to use the term ‘agreement’ because it seems more casual, but clicking that okay is you signing a contract, it doesn’t matter that it’s on your iPhone. Of course, I know you aren’t going to follow that advice, and to be honest, I don’t really expect anyone to. It’s easy to say that you should read them, but actually sitting through a 120-page document filled with legalese every time you download an app…? Not exactly a sustainable way to live in the digital world.

So instead, I’ll suggest an alternative.

At the minimum, make a small amount of effort and research the company. Even a cursory search of the recent FaceApp phenomenon would tell you that there exist significant concerns about their privacy and data usage policies. Even if you haven’t read the whole contract, that information gives you at least some ideas to mull over before signing your life away to these entities. Here’s a little quote that’s buried in the middle of it…

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 Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you. When you post or otherwise share User Content on or through our Services, you understand that your User Content and any associated information (such as your [username], location or profile photo) will be visible to the public.

You grant FaceApp consent to use the User Content, regardless of whether it includes an individual’s name, likeness, voice or persona, sufficient to indicate the individual’s identity. […] You further acknowledge that FaceApp’s use of the User Content for commercial purposes will not result in any injury to you or to any person you authorized to act on its behalf.

If you’re eyes glazed over somewhere in the first sentence, let me summarize that summary for you. FaceApp could take your face and turn you into the spokesperson for anything, with no legal recourse for you. Do you really want to be the go-to stock photo for political ads for the next 20 years?

Didn’t think so.

But even if this agreement wasn’t as anti-consumer, that doesn’t make using their app a good idea. No matter how honest and air-tight that agreement you signed is. No matter how trustworthy and responsible the company is, the moment you transfer your data to their servers, you give up control.

Before you download an app to make you look older or add a funny frame to your pictures, ask yourself one thing.

“Is the potential for my private information being leaked worth using this product?”

If not, your next step should be clear. In an age where your private information is the most valuable commodity, protect it like you would anything else.

But with all that in mind, it probably is still a good idea to read those agreements…

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Written by: AXEL Team

AXEL

Written by

AXEL

We're AXEL, asking the hard questions on who's doing what with YOUR data. www.axel.org

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