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May 31, 2020

FaceApp Craze Sweeps Across Greece Despite Privacy Warnings


“FaceApp,” a mobile application for iOS and Android which automatically generates highly realistic transformations of faces in photographs, has swept Greek social media over the last several days.

As these social media trends tend to do, the craze has grown exponentially over an extremely short period of time, with users eager to show their faces at different ages and poke gentle fun at themselves and others.

Thousands of Facebook users took what is being called the #faceappchallenge and have experimented with digitally transforming their own faces or those of celebrities. This “challenge” involves downloading FaceApp, a selfie-editing tool, and then using one of its filters to digitally age your face.

Greeks have gone wild in posting altered photos of themselves and others on the web.

A much-older Giannis Antetokounmpo
Television host Eleni Menegaki
PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his digitally-transformed face
Former PM Alexis Tsipras and his FaceApped visage

Some experts warn that FaceApp, developed by the Russian company Wireless Lab which uses neural network technology, compromises the privacy of people who use it.

US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has called for an investigation into FaceApp. In a letter posted on Twitter, Senator Schumer called it “deeply troubling” that the personal data of US citizens could go to a “hostile foreign power.”

Actor Robert Downey, Jr. and his digitally-altered image

The company says it does not permanently store images, and does not collect troves of data — it simply uploads specific photos selected by the users for editing.

A company statement claims “Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia,” as reported by news site TechCrunch.

Kanye West and wife Kim Kardashian now, and in their digitally-altered states

According to FaceApp’s terms of service, when you use the app you grant it a “perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide” license to do whatever it wants with your photos. This may sound alarming but it’s worth pointing out that this is identical to the privacy policy of basically every other tech service and platform.

FaceApp sparked widespread criticism in 2017 for a feature allowing users to alter someone’s ethnicity in selfies. The company later apologized and withdrew the filter.

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