FBI Called to Investigate Viral FaceApp that “Owns” 150 Million Users’ Photos

Cybersecurity concerns only seem to be getting more complex as online tech grows and an increasing amount of smart devices infiltrate different aspects of consumer life. Most recently, a phone application named FaceApp, which has gained more than a hundred million downloads in recent weeks, has become a cause of concern for the privacy of its users with the FBI being asked to investigate the case. Experts are worried that the app’s terms of service may be signing users up for more than just a few photo filters.

Created in 2017, FaceApp was developed by the Russian company Wireless Lab with the purpose of morphing users faces into an older or younger likeness, adding a smile to their picture, or transforming facial features to be male or female. Although seemingly innocent fun, many downloaders may have not realized what the user agreement gave developers permissions to.

The official terms of service essentially grant FaceApp a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license” to use your “name, username or likeness”  however they desire. The long-term implications of the open-ended policy have users and even government officials concerned. A Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has even requested that the FBI investigate how the data is being used and where the information is going considering the parent company is outside of the U.S.

FaceApp’s CEO Yaroslav Goncharov responded to concerns saying the system doesn’t access any other information or photos on your phone and most saved photos are deleted from their system after 48 hours. Currently, with no way to confirm if this is actually true, it may be best for users to be cautious of their interactions with the app and be diligent in reviewing other programs terms of service thoroughly before agreeing to them. Even if the photos and data seem to be safe now, there is no telling what can happen in the future.

It’s critical that individuals and organizations recognize the importance of both the technical and human elements in establishing security solutions, procedures and policies, regardless of industry or size. To find out more about how Talley & Company has helped its clients with technology solutions that secure, protect, and enhance their businesses, give us a call today.