Man hiding under an umbrella.

Quick Thought – FaceApp as Russian Scare

The recent flap about the FaceApp “old age” filter is somewhat instructive. As soon as it started going viral, there were scary media reports about how the company was stealing all of your photos, and storing them, and possibly “owning your face”.


Here the thing about every one of the articles that I saw. First, the headline always had the word Russian in it. Yes, FaceApp was created by a Russian company. Many websites know darn well that scary stories about Russian hacking attract a lot of attention and clicks, and they are in the business of attracting clicks much more than they are in the business of informing readers, thus, just about every major site had an article warning people about the dangers of FaceApp.

And what, exactly are the dangers? Well, the app needs access to your whole camera roll.

Newsflash, every app you use to upload photos needs access to your camera roll. That’s the same permission you’ve already probably given to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and countless other apps. You also agreed in the terms of service, to them “owning” the photos you upload as well. Why is this suddenly a scare?

See the previous point. It’s a scare because Russians. Russian “hackers” now have your face and they could be using it in some form of nefarious facial recognition tool, or even to unlock stolen iPhones.

You know what? For all we really know, some Russian hacker could be building tools like this, but I’ve got some bad news for many of us. They don’t need FaceApp to go viral to do that. Between LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, Instgram selfies, and countless other social apps we use, and upload pictures of ourselves to, they already have our faces.

In short, if the thought of someone having a photo of you is that scary, you should probably just not use social media at all. For the mot part, we have no idea what happens to photos of ourselves once we post them on any social network, just like we really have no idea what FaceApp might truly be doing with them.

There is a danger in handing over a photo of your face, but that dangers already existed in a bunch of places. FaceApp just gave the media a reason to use Russians to scare people into clicking and sharing an article that could have just as easily been writing about the dangers of having a Facebook profile to start with, but we already know those dangers and have decided it’s worth it to be connected to our friends online.

If you decide FaceApp being a Russian company is too scary, OK. That’s your choice. But don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re somehow blocking any attempts to get your face while you continue posting selfie after selfie elsewhere. FaceApp may be Russian, but it’s practices are no worse than most of the other apps on your phone.

Hide your face if that bothers you.


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