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Canberra academic warns of dangers of using viral FaceApp ageing filter

Glynis Quinlan22 July 2019

FaceApp uses artificial intelligence to digitally age people’s faces and allow them to meet their ‘future self’. Image: faceapp.com

A Canberra academic and cyber security expert is warning people about the dangers of using the hugely popular FaceApp – saying their images could be used in malicious ways.

FaceApp was developed in Russia by Wireless Lab and its latest old age filter has been taking social media by storm, with celebrities among the hordes of people responding to the #faceappchallenge to digitally age their faces and share photos of what they will one day look like.

However, the director of UNSW Canberra Cyber, Nigel Phair, is advising people not to use the AI-powered app as they first have to agree to terms and conditions which allow FaceApp to use their images as they like.

“Once you upload your photo the Russians who developed the app own the intellectual property of that photo,” Mr Phair told Region Media.

“Even if you subsequently delete the app, they still own the photo.

“There is a strong chance that they will do something malicious with it.”

Mr Phair said it is possible a person’s image could then be used for identity theft or passed on to commercial entities.

“The developers behind this didn’t spend hundreds of hours building this just because it’s good fun,” Mr Phair said.

“You don’t know where they’re going to pass your images onto within the Russian state or to commercial entities.

“There’s no such thing as free in the online world – you are the product.”


Mr Phair’s concerns go far beyond just FaceApp to the way people participate in the online world.

He said that people aren’t thinking before they sign up to apps and often agree to terms and conditions without reading them.

He acknowledged that it can often be difficult for people to access and understand the terms and conditions, but wants app users to realise that nothing is free and there is always a cost, such as loss of privacy.

Mr Phair is particularly concerned about FaceApp because it was developed in Russia.

“The reality is that the Russian state don’t abide by the international norms,” he said.

FaceApp recently put out a statement responding to privacy concerns, saying they might store an uploaded photo in the cloud but that most images are deleted from their servers within 48 hours from the upload date.

TechCrunch quotes FaceApp as saying: “We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.”

Original Article published by Glynis Quinlan on The RiotACT.

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