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Face App: recipe for ID theft

By Mal Fletcher - posted Friday, 19 July 2019

In recent days, my Instagram and Twitter feeds have been inundated with photos of people I know, who suddenly look much older than I remember them.

These friends have brought into the Face App craze.

Face App applies the computing power of artificial intelligence to recreate human facial features in a way that adds (or subtracts) years of natural ageing. The results are either remarkable or, in some cases, creepy.


Here's the thing, though. To use the app you must upload a current image of yourself to the Face App servers. As with some other photo-sharing services, that brings risks to privacy and personal security of which most users are unaware.

Face App, however, takes these risks to a higher level.

The terms of use statement for the Face App service are quite clear on the following. (These are not quoted directly here, but the original terms have been widely reported).

The user's original photo - and its doctored version - can be used by the people behind Face App, for any purpose they choose. They can do this without asking for the user's consent, or notifying them, or sharing with them any profit arising from the use of their images.

What's more, the company can display users' images via any media, including forms of media that haven't yet been invented. They can also display usernames - and accompanying real names - in said media.

All of this, say the terms and conditions, applies in perpetuity. This should make even the most cloud-friendly AI advocate wary.


To add to the unease, the company behind Face App is Russian-owned.

Now, Russia - as a state or a business environment - has no monopoly on the use of the internet in underhand ways.

Yet there is ample evidence of sometimes unusual levels of Russian-based interference in online activities such as foreign elections, corporate espionage and more.

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This article was first published by 2020Plus.

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About the Author

Mal Fletcher is a media social futurist and commentator, keynote speaker, author, business leadership consultant and broadcaster currently based in London. He holds joint Australian and British citizenship.

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