Nigerian Celebrities Jump On Viral FaceApp Amidst Global Privacy Concerns

Bovi

A number of Nigerian celebrities have jumped on the viral 'FaceApp' which alters users' photos to make them look older or younger.

All week, stars including Tonto Dikeh and Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde have explored the app's unique features and shared their photos on social media even as experts say it may pose security concerns.

The smartphone app, which currently boasts of over 80 million active users, allows users to apply filters onto selfies they upload. The Russian app has grown in popularity and is one of the most downloaded across the globe.

But cybersecurity experts have raised several red flags about FaceApp, which is made by a Wireless Lab, a small company based in Russia.

The creators have noted in its terms and conditions that users' photos could be used in unexpected ways and this is a clause most Nigerians seem unaware about.

Back in May 2017, FaceApp, which had previously achieved popularity, was branded as racist for allowing users to alter someone's ethnicity in selfies. The company later apologised and withdrew the filter.

Two years after, the app has once again gone viral, thanks to celebrities, such as rapper Drake and The Jonas Brothers, who have posted selfies they edited with FaceApp to social media.

Why you should be wary of using FaceApp

FaceApp's privacy policy, which many users rarely pay attention to, notes that its affiliates and service providers "may transfer information that we collect about you, including personal information across borders and from your country or jurisdiction to other countries or jurisdictions around the world."

Additionally, users also need to upload their picture to the cloud whenever they use FaceApp.

These photographs could be used overseas, including Russia, whose government has been accused of interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The app, which requires users to grant it permission to access their photo gallery, also includes in their Terms and Conditions that they have the right to modify, reproduce and publish any of the images users' process through its AI.

That means that a user's face could end up being commercialised, as the case may be.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that users won't be able to sue FaceApp. This is because people who downloaded and used the app automatically agreed to a mandatory arbitration clause. This means they waived their right to take any legal complaints to court.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, on Thursday, called for an investigation into FaceApp.

In a letter posted on Twitter, Mr Schumer called it "deeply troubling" that personal data of US citizens could go to a "hostile foreign power".

FaceApp had previously denied the allegations.

Mr Schumer has asked that the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigate FaceApp.

"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," his letter read.

Following Mr Schumer's concerns, some FaceApp users have expressed fears that Russia now owns all their old photos and have access to all their personal information and identity.

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