What is FaceApp, the viral application that ages the face with incredible realism

FaceApp is the viral application of the last few days: millions of people use it to age their faces in an incredibly realistic way. In this folder we tell you everything about this application, from download links, to alternatives, to a tutorial, a dive into its intrinsic functioning and the controversy around supposed risks to privacy.

FaceApp is a free iOS and Android application specialized in advanced photo filters and other Face Swaps. In recent weeks, it is above all the aging filter that has made people talk about it: striking photos of friends who have aged with a lot of realism have been multiplying in recent days. Fans of the application have even launched the #FaceAppChallenge on Twitter.

Some have even tried to age photos of young celebrities and compared them with the real photos of their faces a few decades later. Every time it's the same surprise - the result is incredibly credible, so much so that it's almost as if the application had the ability to show you the future!

Developed by the Russian publisher Wireless Labs, FaceApp has been in existence since January 2017. And it has already had its share of scandals: in April 2017, for example, a filter to make itself sexy was removed after accusations of racism - the filter systematically brightened people with dark skin. A few months later, in August, it was the turn of ethnic filters to transform themselves into "Indians" or "Asians" to become controversial.

Closer to home, the sudden vitality of the application raises concerns about potential privacy risks. Risks that nevertheless prove to be unjustified.

FaceApp: why it's so realistic

The result of FaceApp's aging filter is amazing. Some even had fun aging photos of young celebrities to check the relevance of the morphological changes made by this application. Wireless Labs has specialized since 2017 in this kind of morphing based on machine learning and artificial intelligence. In concrete terms, the designers of the application fed a model with photos of young people and photos of people of a certain age with all types of faces and capillary implantations.

After a certain amount of data, and if it is sufficiently varied, the model "knows" how to imitate aging, whatever your face. What gives an extra touch of realism is probably that the filter also relies on small facial defects.

FaceApp: Should you worry about your data?

With such a spotlight in recent weeks, and a sometimes sulphurous past, Internet users quickly pointed out that the conditions of use of the application, particularly in terms of personal data, are surprising. For example, access to users' photos is described as "irrevocable". At the risk of having some sites like 9to5Mac say that users unknowingly send all the photos of their smartphones to servers based in Russia. This article has been amended extensively since then by tests by security researchers and a Wireless Labs press release.

Their conclusion is that there does not seem to be any real reason for concern. First, because, as the French security researcher Elliot Alderson shows by "A + B" in a series of tweets, the application only sends to servers the photo you choose to edit and only the latter. Otherwise, the application does not appear to make an unreasonable request, or threaten the privacy of users.

FaceApp also explains in a press release that these photos are generally deleted within 48 hours, that the application accepts individual requests to delete personal data, that they are not linked to identification data, and that in any case no data is shared with third parties or sold. In addition, the company states "even if the core of our R&D team is based in Russia, user data is not transferred to Russia". 

To drive the nail in the coffin, the firm concludes its press release: "We would like to comment on one of the most common concerns: all photos in the gallery would be uploaded to our servers after the user allows access to the photos [...] We don't do that. We only upload a photo for editing. You can check this with any network sniffing tool available on the Internet".

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