After swiftly going viral across social media all around the world, photo filter app FaceApp almost as quickly got embroiled in a massive controversy over allegations of privacy risks and even a threat to national security. The Russian photo-editing app uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to make your faces look older or younger, make you smile or change your hairstyle.
One of the primary concerns about FaceApp is how it stores photos of users on a cloud server for image processing. And since FaceApp takes up only about 10MB of your phone's storage, it's virtually impossible for any app of this size to process photos locally on your device. So we asked the FaceApp to clear the air on the privacy concerns.
In a detailed statement to Republic World, FaceApp founder Yaroslav Goncharov addressed every single privacy concern about the app.
Addressing privacy concerns about storing photos in the cloud, Goncharov clarified FaceApp only uploads photos you select for editing. Other than that, it doesn't transfer any other images on its own.
"We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud. We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud."
Goncharov also acknowledged FaceApp might store an uploaded photo in the cloud while 'most' photos are deleted from the cloud servers within 48 hours of uploading. Of course, some people may find the usage of the word 'most' alarming here.
"We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn't upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date."
FaceApp users can request all their data be removed from the app's servers.
"We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority.
Addressing technical issues reported by users, Goncharov had something to say:
"For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using "Settings->Support->Report a bug" with the word "privacy" in the subject line. We are working on the better UI for that."
Goncharov argues that all FaceApp features are available to users without logging in and therefore, the app doesn't collect any data that could identify a person.
"99% of users don't log in; therefore, we don't have access to any data that could identify a person. We don't sell or share any user data with any third parties."
Goncharov maintained they neither sell any user data to third parties and nor transfer to Russia.
"We don't sell or share any user data with any third parties. Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia."
On Wednesday, US Senate Chuck Schumer called for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to "look into the national security & privacy risks" connected to FaceApp.
However, the explanation offered by Goncharov is certainly not enough as it doesn't clearly address whether all photos are deleted from their servers. While you may request to remove your data but in reality, there is no way to know if the photos are actually deleted from the cloud.