FaceApp, the photo editing app that seems to go viral at least twice a year since 2017, is trending again in 2019 as celebrities and social media users have been sharing photos of themselves looking older (or younger) as generated by the app. However, in this age of Deepfakes that can mimic anyone with sufficient input photos and given FaceApp's Privacy Agreement and its Terms of Use, you probably should think before using the app.

Among some critics of the app, this time around, is the fear that because it's a Russian app, we should be extra fearful of it. That fear, however, can be dismissed as Westerners (mainly) expressing their bias against all things Russia because being of Russian origin doesn't make FaceApp any more dangerous, than say, Facebook (we'll address this later in the article). So much so that US authorities have ordered the FBI to investigate FaceApp because it puts so many photos of US citizens in the hands of a foreign government (I couldn't help but laugh at this).

The real concern, rightfully so, is that once you use FaceApp, you also acept its Terms and Privacy Policy which notably state that you give the app, which is available on both Android and iOS, the right to use your photos, names, usernames and likeness for any purpose including commercial usage. Usage can be very broadly defined and can include things such as your photo being used on marketing materials, advertisements in both traditional and digital media, and who knows what else.

"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."

As if that's not enough to raise your eyebrows before you use the app, there's also a few lines about granting FaceApp access to personally identifying information about yourself or the photo you upload.

"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. By using the Services, you agree that the User Content may be used for commercial purposes. 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. You acknowledge that some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions, and you hereby agree that FaceApp may place such advertising and promotions on the Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your User Content. The manner, mode and extent of such advertising and promotions are subject to change without specific notice to you. You acknowledge that we may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such."

False outrage?

Since the app has been trending on both social media platforms and Apple and Google's App stores, and especially after some people pointed to its Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, some journalists and opinionistas have rushed to call out people for having false outrage. Their main point being that FaceApp's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use are no different to that of some more popular apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp, to name a few.

Take for instance Twitter. It explicitly states in its Terms Of Service  that all content posted by any user is their property, i.e. you own any and all content you post on Twitter, it does however also state the following:

"By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed)."

This, as stated earlier, similar for Facebook and its subsidiary services. However, this does not mean the outrage around FaceApp is false. Every app that has invasive terms needs to be highlighted especially because most users hardly ever click on the Terms or Privacy Policies to read them. As such, it is important that, at every opportunity, for as many times as possible, that such invasive terms are called out until potential users are aware of what they are getting themselves into.

About Deepfakes

Some might call this a reach, and I would understand. However, I don't think it is far fetched to imagine a company that wants full rights to your photos for commercial or other promotional use, taking those photos and using similar Artificial Intelligence (AI) that it uses to make you look younger or older and then making new realistic-looking "(deep)fake" images or videos of yourself doing things that you've never actually done in real-life.

Think political campaigns, appearing in advertisements for companies or orgainzations you are opposed to, or merely your photos now being sold to other individuals and organizations as stock photography.

So, next time you use any app, think and perhaps take time to check out the Privacy Policy and Terms.

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