If you own a smartphone you probably have a bunch of apps installed to your device. Apps that are designed to organize your life and ones meant to kill time while waiting in line at a grocery store or doctor’s office. What’s nice about apps are the convenience and ease everyone has to find and download what they’re looking for. With the millions of apps flooding the App Store and Google Play Store, it can be overwhelming to decide what’s worth downloading and installing to your phone. It’s even more difficult to figure out which app will be the latest popular fad of the moment. The FaceApp app has the honor of being the hot item of the moment.
Social media has been abuzz last week with images of people’s faces transformed into instant older versions of themselves, thanks to a little app called FaceApp. You upload a photo onto FaceApp and then apply the app’s old age filter to add 20+ years to your youthful self. Wondering if you’ll be a silver fox in your old age? Apparently, FaceApp can satiate your curiosity. Everyone from your Facebook friends to high profile celebrities have been using the app and posting the results. While the app seems harmless enough, mindless entertainment to kill your boredom for the next hour, the price you’re paying may be much greater than what you bargained for.
Immediately after FaceApp has gone viral, privacy issues and concerns have been raised about the app. It has been revealed that FaceApp is developed by Wireless Lab, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and their Terms of Service seem to indicate that users who upload their photos to the app are granting them the right to store and use those photos for their own vague purposes.
FaceApp isn’t a brand new app. It released back in 2017, but didn’t gain this much attention until last week when a growing number of celebrities began downloading the app to take part in a photo challenge. Like anything that goes viral on the Internet, people get curious and instantly want to get in on the latest trend. I’m, fortunately, not one of the millions of people who downloaded FaceApp. It did, however, raise my interest to uncover what new filter or app would be capable enough to morph my youthful friends and acquaintances into gray haired, wrinkly old men and ladies after seeing much of these photos dominating my Instagram and Facebook feeds.
I often ignore a lot of what goes viral on the Internet. Rather than blindly follow what all the cool kids are doing, I quietly wait until the fervor dies down and everyone is onto the next big thing. It almost always happens each and every time. FaceApp isn’t the first, nor will it be the last, hot fad that will come along to have the masses eager to participate, as if it would be the worst thing in the world if they’re not part of the in-crowd. The fact we have now become a society that cares more about getting as many likes or follows for posting a selfie, or even taking part in a viral photo challenge, speaks volumes about how little we stop and think about what the costs might be to be a part of something we believe is harmless fun.
FaceApp should serve as a warning and reminder to us all that we need to be smart and vigilant about how we share and disseminate our data and private information. If Facebook’s own privacy breaches wasn’t enough to take back control of our digital lives, then what will? The only way we can protect ourselves from having our data used in ways we do not agree with is by arming ourselves with knowledge. Research the company behind an app or product and take the time to read the fine print on the Terms of Service. Naturally, we all don’t like to read and scroll through pages of text that’s almost small and too hard to read, but usually what we’re potentially agreeing to is found between the lines. If we can’t be bothered to at least skim through the parts concerning how our data is handled, we really have no one else to blame but ourselves for giving the big bad wolf the keys to the front door.