Update: Security researcher Elliot Alderson has provided additional information on FaceApp, refuting the speculation from Nozzi. FaceApp has yet to respond to our request for comment.
If you’ve been on the internet at all over the last several days, you’ve likely seen people posting images from the viral application FaceApp. The premise is that FaceApp transforms selfies and other pictures by applying aging, glasses, and more. Unfortunately, it also looks like it has its own share of privacy concerns.
Developer Joshua Nozzi took to Twitter today to share something he noticed when using FaceApp for the first time. Once he granted the app access to his photos, it started “listing them slowly a row at a time, almost like network delays.”
From there, he quickly enabled Airplane Mode, and all of the images appeared instantly. FaceApp, however, wouldn’t let him select any of the photos because he was offline. He speculates this could be a sign that FaceApp is uploading your photos:
BE CAREFUL WITH FACEAPP – the face aging fad app. It immediately uploads your photos without asking, whether you chose one or not.
As soon as I granted access to my photos it started listing them slowly a row at a time, almost like network delays. I quickly hit Airplane Mode and it instantly listed them all, refusing to let me select any because I’m offline. IT’S UPLOADING ALL YOUR PHOTOS.
One possibility is that FaceApp isn’t necessarily uploading all of your photos, but rather only the one that you choose to “ageify.” Nonetheless, ideally FaceApp will further clarify its privacy practices soon.
FaceApp is a free download on the App Store, but offers various in-app purchases, including a recurring subscription for the “Pro” version of the app.
Many of these viral applications can often have hidden motives and privacy concerns. For instance, the viral “Twinning” app from Popsurgar last year claimed to match selfies with celebrities, but it was also found to expose personal photos.
It’s always wise to take a step back when apps like FaceApp go viral. While they are often popular and can provide humorous content, there can often be unintended consequences and privacy concerns. Because nothing can ever be fun anymore.