FaceApp is a simple photo editing app that's going viral for the second time in two years. The app captivated internet users in 2017 with its fun and unsettling selfie filters that included gender-swap, and briefly, blackface.
Over the last week, FaceApp has seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to an aging filter. The user uploads a photograph with a human face to the app, and the program adds lines, wrinkles, and gray hair to it. A bunch of celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon, including Drake, V of BTS, and Kevin Hart.
One of the reasons behind FaceApp's explosion in popularity is its price: free to use, with additional filters unlocked with a subscription. However, while you might not be paying any money to use FaceApp, the program is still set up to profit off of you.
The blowback to FaceApp has contained some exaggerations. The app does require users to give FaceApp permission to access the phone's entire camera roll. This led some to worry that the app was uploading potentially sensitive photos to FaceApp's servers, but privacy experts have determined that this is not the case. FaceApp also denied this in a statement to TechCrunch on Wednesday.
A more reckless insinuation was that because FaceApp is a Russian startup, the program was somehow a Kremlin psyop — in FaceApp's statement to TechCrunch, the app's creators said that the program's "user data is not transferred to Russia."
There's a bit of problematic stuff in FaceApp's Terms of Services agreement. By using FaceApp, you're giving the company a blanket, royalty-free license to use the photos however they want without notifying or paying you. If you post a photo of your friend, you're waiving their rights, too.
However, FaceApp's terms of services aren't uniquely egregious, as VICE's Caroline Haskins outlines. Chances are you already have one or more apps on your phone that are mining your data and selling it in similar ways. Is it a privacy nightmare? Well, yes, but so is everything else.