FaceApp, the AI-powered selfie-editing app that’s been having another viral moment of late, has now responded to a privacy controversy.
Concerns have been raised that FaceApp, a Russian startup, uploads users’ photos to the cloud — without making it clear to them that processing is not going on locally on their device.
Another issue raised by FaceApp users was that the iOS app appears to be overriding settings if a user had denied access to their camera roll, after people reported they could still select and upload a photo — i.e. despite the app not having permission to access their photos.
On the wider matter of cloud processing of what is, after all, facial data, FaceApp confirms that most of the processing needed to power its app’s beautifying/gender-bending/age-accerating/-defying effects are done in the cloud.
Though it claims it only uploads photos users have specifically selected for editing. Security tests have also not found evidence the app uploads a user’s entire camera roll.
FaceApp goes on to specify that it “might” store the photos users have chosen to upload in the cloud for a short period, claiming this is done for “performance and traffic” — such as to make sure that a user doesn’t repeatedly upload the same photo to carry out another edit.
“Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date,”
“We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties,” it adds.
FaceApp also says users can request their data is deleted. Though it doesn’t yet have a very smooth way to do this — instead it asks users to send delete requests via the mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line, adding that it’s “working on a better UI for that”.
Here’s the company’s statement in full:
1. FaceApp performs most of the photo processing in the cloud. We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.
2. We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. 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.
3. We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line. We are working on the better UI for that.
4. All FaceApp features are available without logging in, and you can log in only from the settings screen. As a result, 99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person.
5. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.
6. Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.
BDST: 1310 HRS, JUL 18, 2019