FaceApp responds to privacy concerns about ‘transferring user data to Russia’

Russian startup and AI-powered selfie-editing app, FaceApp, has responded to privacy concerns that it uploads users’ photos to the cloud — without making it clear to them that processing is not going on locally on their device.

According to a statement by the company, it confirmed that most of the processing needed to power its app’s beautifying/gender-bending/age-accerating/-defying effects are done in the cloud, but stressed that it “might” store the photos users have chosen to upload in the cloud for a short period, claiming this is done for “performance and traffic” — such as to make sure that a user doesn’t repeatedly upload the same photo to carry out another edit.

“All FaceApp features are available without logging in, and you can log in only from the settings screen. As a result, 99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties,” the statement read.

FaceApp has also addressed the issue that iOS app appears to be overriding settings if a user had denied access to their camera roll, after people reported they could still select and upload a photo — i.e. despite the app not having permission to access their photos.

According to a report by TechCrunch.com, the latter is actually allowed behavior in iOS — which gives users the power to choose to block an app from full camera roll access but select individual photos to upload if they so wish.

“This isn’t a conspiracy, though Apple could probably come up with a better way of describing the permission,” the tech site suggested.

Here is the company’s statement in full:

We are receiving a lot of inquiries regarding our privacy policy and therefore, would like to provide a few points that explain the basics:

1. FaceApp performs most of the photo processing in the cloud. We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.

2. We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.

3. We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line. We are working on the better UI for that.

4. All FaceApp features are available without logging in, and you can log in only from the settings screen. As a result, 99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person.

5. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.

6. Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.

Additionally, we’d like to comment on one of the most common concerns: all pictures from the gallery are uploaded to our servers after a user grants access to the photos (for example, https://twitter.com/joshuanozzi/status/1150961777548701696).  We don’t do that. We upload only a photo selected for editing. You can quickly check this with any of network sniffing tools available on the internet.

READ ALSO: AI photo editor FaceApp goes viral again on iOS, raises questions about photo library access

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