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FaceApp Is A Reminder That Our Data Is More Vulnerable Than We Realize

Spencer Israel

Another viral trend, another round of questions about information security.

FaceApp, the app that shows users aged pictures of themselves using artificial intelligence, has more than 80 million users all over the world and is currently the number one free app in both Apple Inc’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS App Store and Alphabet Inc’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google Play Store, according to Business Insider.

But what started as a fun way to see older versions of yourself has quickly become about more than that.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sent a letter to the FBI and FTC on Wednesday calling for the agencies to investigate any potential national security and privacy risks posed by the app’s usage.

FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov, in a statement to the Washington Post and TechCrunch, denied that Russian authorities have access to user information, but did say simply deleting the app isn’t enough to remove your information from FaceApp’s servers, which are located in America, Ireland, and Singapore.

FaceApp, which is headquartered in Saint Petersburg, Russia, also removes “most” photos from its servers within 48 hours, though users grant the company a perpetual license to use their photos.

Will This Stop Anyone From Using The App?

Given the average shelf life of viral trends, it is unlikely FaceApp maintains this level of popularity indefinitely. However, if we’ve learned anything from recent privacy leaks, it’s that exposing users’ information typically is not enough to get them to quit.

Just look at Facebook Inc (NASDAQ: FB), which is awaiting final approval of its $5 billion fine by the FTC, the largest such fine ever handed out by the watchdog, over various user privacy abuses. Despite all the headlines over the last year, the last two quarters have been the best in the company’s history in terms of revenue.

“The government can fine Facebook [or any social media giant] and try and invoke new regulations, but it won't stop consumers from using these platforms, driving ad sales, or prevent people from posting personal data that could be breached in the future,” said Darren Conte, CEO of SiftSort, a secure document storage, sharing and messaging website. “At some point, doesn't the user have to take more responsibility for what they post and stop crying wolf?”

He added, “I thought the Facebook penalty of $5 billion was surprising, since billions of people are hooked on their platform and it equated to one month of revenue.”

There are 20 billion internet-connected devices today, or about three for every human, according to Raj Lala, president of Evolve ETFs. With all those devices, the amount of data being generated is doubling roughly every four years.

“Social media is fun, addictive, and here to stay. But careless usage or neglecting to remove profiles [when you stop using a site] could lead to having your personal identifiable information breached or used without your consent,” Conte said.


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