FaceApp may show you what you look like when you get old, but new privacy concerns arise

Posted at 12:20 PM, Jul 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-17 18:33:17-04

Ever wanted to know how you'll age? There's an app for that.

Launched in 2017, FaceApp isn't necessarily new. But it's making headlines again because the app has gotten good -- like, eerily good -- at showing users what they'll look like when they age.

It's scary, so use at your own risk. Or, take a spin through Twitter or Instagram to see how others have turned out years into the future.

Basketball star Dwyane Wade gave it a go -- or, in this case, retired basketball star?

Tottenham Hotspurs, a soccer team in England, made a whole Twitter thread of their players with FaceApp. It's amazing.

And rapper Drake got in on the aging action (though it isn't clear if he used FaceApp to do it).

The app uses neural networks -- a type of artificial intelligence -- to edit the photos.

And it can do more than just age you. The app can literally put a smile on your face, make you look younger, or swap your gender, too.

Privacy concerns

The app, though enjoyable, is also resurfacing concerns about security and privacy. FaceApp is owned by Russian tech company Wireless Labs, who has been scrutinized in the past for how the photos uploaded to the app are used.

David Vaile, a privacy expert and and executive director of the Cyberspace Law and Policy Community at the University of New South Wales, spoke about the concerns in April 2017.

"Short answer: don't use it," Vaile told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in 2017.

Vaile added: "They ask for way more rights than they need to offer the service to you, (they) can remove the data from any effective legal protection regime, share it with almost anyone, and retain it indefinitely.

"It is impossible to tell from this what happens when you upload it, that is the problem. The (license) is so lax. They can claim you agree they can send to wherever they like to whoever they like, and so long as there is some connection, (they can) do a lot of things with it."

Here's what FaceApp's privacy policy says: "These tools collect information sent by your device or our Service, including the web pages you visit, add-ons, and other information that assists us in improving the Service."

This means the app collects information about your browsing history and location.

"We will not rent or sell your information to third parties outside FaceApp," the policy also says. But it adds: "We may also share certain information such as cookie data with third-party advertising partners."

FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov hasn't responded to questions about the app's use of data and information in regards to users' privacy and security.

Skyler Robinson download FaceApp.

He said, “I just wanted to see what I would look like when I’m 80.”

We can’t show you his results because he deleted the photo and the app.

“I regret it,” he added.

Huirong Fu is a cyber security expert with Oakland University. She wants you to think twice before downloading FaceApp.

“Very concerned definitely,” she said. “Strongly recommend don’t permit them access to your photos.”

The app could reportedly access your photos, even if you didn’t give it permission. reports some FaceApp users say the app can override settings to access their camera log.

Fu said, “It’s sensitive information.”

Pictures of your face or other photos are your personal identity and can detect facial recognition and pinpoint your location.

“Most people weren’t looking at what permissions they were requiring,” said Kunho Kim.

He did not download the app.

“You never really know what the end game goal is of the developers behind these apps,” Kim added.

FaceApp is owned by a Russian company and privacy laws are different in other countries.

“Given the history between the two countries, I wouldn’t want a Russian app on my phone that wants to use my data. I don’t even know what they would want to use it for,” Robinson said.

Even if you delete the app, Fu says they may still have your data. FaceApp states it does not sell or share your information to third parties.

Experts are also concerned about hackers getting your data.

FaceApp is offering instructions on how to delete your information.

According to Users can send delete requests via the mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line.


Scripps National contributed to this report.