Viral aging app sparked security questions

Your friends were doing it. Your co-workers were doing it. Your kids were doing it. Tommy Little was doing it. Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison was doing it. “It” was the FaceApp challenge, in which users posted photographs of themselves altered by an app to show what they would look like much older, or much younger. FaceApp, which was launched in 2017 by Wireless Lab, went viral.

Then came the privacy fears. Is the app keeping all your photos and data for some nefarious purpose? Wireless Lab is, after all, based in Russia. Was the company a front for a spy operation, tricking us all into handing over sensitive information? Do the Russians now own all your photos, and are they using them in a sinister plot?

Well, first things first, no FaceApp does not have access to all your photos, just the ones you upload into the app. Yes, it does process the photos you upload on a cloud-based server. But that server is in the US, not Russia. Cyber security experts tested and confirmed this. You can even request that the app delete your photo from the server.

“We might store an uploaded picture in the cloud,” CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told the Guardian. “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.”

There is third party code in the app, but it goes to servers in the US and Australia. Of course there are privacy concerns with just about anything you do on the internet, but FaceApp is no more dangerous than any other you upload photos to. So go ahead and play around with it. The app might put wrinkles on your face and turn your hair white, but privacy concerns need not do.