Joshua Nozzi, the developer who first raised alarms about FaceApp, later knocked down the initial fear that FaceApp is covertly harvesting your entire smartphone camera roll. Likewise, the fact that a company is based in Russia doesn’t automatically mean it’s a tool of the Russian government.
“Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date,” the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch addressing the privacy concerns. (Representatives for FaceApp did not immediately respond to our request for comment.)
What remains concerning, however, is the language in the app’s terms of service.
In one densely-worded section, the company informs users that they “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.”
Translation: FaceApp can effectively do what it wants with your selfie. But this puts FaceApp in pretty good company. Other prominent tech companies have inserted similarly concerning language into terms of service over the years to assert their rights to use names, pictures and other content shared by users as they please.
“If you share a photo on Facebook, you give us permission to store, copy, and share it with others,” Facebook says in its own terms and conditions.
And yet, we keep sharing first and asking questions later, if we ask them at all.
In between FaceApp’s first brush with virality and its explosion in popularity this week, there have been a number of tech privacy scandals, any one of which should arguably have been enough to make people at least reconsider how much information they share with tech companies.
Data collected through a seemingly benign personality test on Facebook, a controversial data firm that worked for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. A popular period tracking app was found to release details of users with Facebook. In reports gathered, Amazon employed a global team to listen when you speak to its Echo smart speakers.
But the moment we hear about a flashy new service that can make our selfies look older, We are quick to throw caution to the wind and hand over the photo of our face, without knowing for sure where it’s stored or what it may be used for.
Tech companies certainly deserve criticism for their data privacy practices, but so do we.