Every once in a while, a “fun” website or app that requires us to upload a photo of ourselves goes viral. In 2015, it was Microsoft’s How-Old.net, which would guess your age based on a selfie. It turned out to be a showcase for Microsoft’s facial recognition technology.
Amazon followed in 2017 with its version that showcased its Rekognition API – the same controversial technology used by law enforcement, often under ambiguous circumstances.
In 2019, social media is awash with “aged photos” courtesy of the FaceApp Old filter. What do we know about FaceApp?
- It requires your Facebook login
- By using a Facebook federated login, FaceApp receives your name, profile picture, photos and email address
- The company is based in Petersburg, Russia
Like many apps and websites, the Facebook federated login grants FaceApp an enormous amount of data. Your email can be used in combination with other data brokers to find out who you are, where you live, and other demographic information. Granting access to all your photos allows this personal information to be combined with highly accurate facial recognition.
I have no proof that FaceApp has any affiliation with the Russian government or intelligence agencies. But it’s not a stretch given that ICE and the FBI are already using driver license images to build law enforcement databases of people not even suspected of crimes (e.g. you) without consent.
Even if the intent is less nefarious (e.g. they’re selling data to a marketing aggregation data broker), the trade-off of your privacy for a simulation of your older self is a poor one. Don’t succumb to the novelty.
If you really want to know what you’ll look like when you’re old, just take a look at your parents.
About the Author
Allen Murabayashi is a graduate of Yale University, the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter blog, and a co-host of the “I Love Photography” podcast on iTunes. For more of his work, check out his website and follow him on Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.
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