Facing the facts behind FaceApp.

credits: faceapp.com/

FaceApp? More like FaceCr- yes, you got it right, FaceCraft. You know, because of how crafty it’s creators are. I’ll explain that later. First, we delve into what exactly is this app. Initially launched on the IOS in the year 2017, it quickly gained popularity. It can edit your picture to look 50 years older, or younger, or of the opposite gender, or just smiling (for which, personally I just look in the mirror). The results do fascinate the eye.

Parallel to app’s success, boomed criticism. Among other problems, it faced a backlash on its “hot” filter for being somewhat racist, as the filter made the skin more paler, feeding to the age old fallacious standard of beauty. The Russian creator Yaroslav Goncahrov responded with a “we’re working on it” and eased the disturbance by explaining how it had no relation to social stigmas or biases. It was only but a product of the neural network’s indiscriminate processing. Speaking of which brings me to the question, how is it different from all other similar editing apps? Well, no other app uses a neural network to morph the facial features in coherence with the desired filter effect. For those of you who don’t know what a neural network is, it is a computer system that is based on the functioning of the human brain. Just like we have nerves, it has nodes. This is what gives it “artificial intelligence”. So, when you take a picture from FaceApp, it uploads it on its cloud server, where the image processing takes place, intelligently morphing your face into a smile or whatever you chose, and gives you the desired edit you greedily wait for. And we gotta admit, the results do look very much believable, well, mostly.

credits: faceapp.com/

Uh…  Come on guys, not Shrek. Shrek is love, Shrek is life. If you know, you know. If you don’t, well, I’m happy for you.

So anyway, after two years of its launch on the IOS, it was introduced on the Google App store this year and shot straight up to the top trending. Ah, trends. Can’t miss out on them now can we? Miss one Jumma and nobody bats an eye, miss a trend and you suddenly become Patrick star (no, I don’t live under a rock thankyou). Anyway, FaceApp was the most popular when certain celebrities started using it and posted their old-faced pictures on their social media for the purpose of entertainment. Thus, the “FaceApp challenge” was born (still figuring out where the challenge is in it, though). It spread like wildfire on twitter (like all other everyday trends pfft), and everyone was talking about it. But one tweet riled up a ruckus. A developer tweeted that the app might be taking all the user’s photos and uploading them on its cloud servers without their permission. Snowball effect came into play and before we knew it, there was an avalanche of investigations headed straight towards Goncahrov, the creator of the app. The terms and conditions of the app were brought under scrutiny and the following clause was found to be stated in them:

You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.

THIS is why I called the creators of the app crafty.

credits: faceapp.com/

Goncahrov cleared many of the misconceptions about the apps privacy policy and how it does NOT take all the data, but only the photo that users explicitly snap and upload themselves, which brings me to a consideration, people aren’t actually worried about their privacy being invaded, they’re only worried because it’s the current trend. Hear me out now, more than most of the apps we have installed in our smartphones have terms and conditions that closely resemble the above stated clause from FaceApp’s terms of service. All the major social media apps we use that have become a part of our lives, invade in our privacy more than we might account them for. And the worst part is, at the back of our heads, we all know it to be true. We don’t need anyone else to tell us that. It won’t matter, because we ourselves can’t tell us that yet. If (hopefully) I’m wrong, then this internet upset has managed to achieve what Edward Snowden couldn’t, and people have actually begun to realize the intensity of this threat.

Amir Mahmood

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