What will you look like in 50 years? Do you really want to know? Surprisingly perhaps, it seems the common answer is "yes."
This week, millions of us downloaded the app FaceApp, which lets the user select a selfie before it applies a filter and turns the clock forward. In short, #faceappchallenge lets you share your new, wrinkly and wizened picture for a quick laugh on social media.
At what cost?
FaceApp's company headquarters are located in Saints Petersburg, and many have concerns. FaceApp have stated that "even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia." Nonetheless, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has asked US authorities to investigate the company, saying, "I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as whether users are aware of who may have access to it."
Initial panic about the app's security were piqued with claims that the app uploaded every photo on the user's phone. Although this claim was later de-bunked, worries persist over how long the app retains your selfie, given that the large user base collected by FaceApp could be used by artificial intelligence to identify faces.
Concern's about a dystopian future of surveillance via facial recognition aren't totally unfounded, it was only in June that Microsoft deleted a 10 million strong database of images of celebrities that it had collated in order to train facial recognition software for the authorities.
How many of us read the Terms of Service?
FaceApp's terms of service (which I'm sure we have all taken care to read in their entirety) allow the company to track the user's browsing history, and crucially, gives them the irrevocable licensing rights to your picture without the usual opt-out clause that social media companies include so that users can delete their data and prevent the company using and retaining it. The company should of course delete the images, and despite the COO claiming the firm aims to delete images after 48 hours, many express concerns that these comments aren't codified in the app's terms.
So, do I get the app or not?
Ultimately, it seems safe to say that facial recognition is coming into the mainstream, whether we have the app or not, and whether we like it or not. One opinion writer says, "Chances are your face is already in a database somewhere, helping to train artificial intelligence to take over the world." While the reality may be less like a super-villainous plot, and the benefits of facial recognition (such as helping in terrorism prevention and criminal investigations) should be remembered, facial recognition is here to stay. The legal, technological and data related issues this will bring up, however, are surely just beginning.
Everyone is talking about FaceApp - the app that can edit photos of people's faces to show younger or older versions of themselves.