June 25, 2020 | 11:56 PM GMT+0800 Last Edit: December 12, 2020
The National Privacy Commission (NPC) has conducted an assessment of FaceApp, a mobile application that trended again on social media in the past week because of privacy concerns over its face-altering capability.
Users have been uploading their selfies on FaceApp for entertainment purposes. Through facial recognition technology, the app modifies photos according to certain presets or filters, such as gender swapping and age manipulation.
Upon assessment, the NPC found significant differences between the 2019 and 2020 versions of FaceApp’s privacy policies. The NPC first assessed the application in August 2019, while a second privacy assessment was conducted on June 23 this year.
Third-party cloud providers
To process and edit photographs, FaceApp disclosed that it was using thirdparty cloud providers — Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services.
Only photographs specifically selected for editing are uploaded to the cloud, where they are temporarily cached during the editing process and encrypted using a key stored locally on the user’s mobile device.
Opting out, permissions
In contrast, the 2020 version provides users choices, such as opting out, device permissions, cloud processing, cookies, targeted online advertising, choosing not to share one’s personal information and third-party platforms.
The assessment has also found that the 2020 FaceApp version no longer requires users to disclose their mobile number and Facebook login information for identity verification.
The Privacy Commissioner’s reminder to the public
In general, the NPC reminds users to take precautions before uploading selfies and other photos to social media. If abused or misused, these seemingly harmless actions may expose users to data privacy risks, such as unauthorized access, processing and malicious disclosure due to negligence.
“Do not be afraid to explore new technologies but use it with caution. Report abuse if any.” Privacy Commissioner Raymund E. Liboro said. “The public must not immediately give in to privacy panics. Rather, we should read and learn how to analyze privacy notices and policies. Ask yourself, is the app and developer being fair by providing choices and notices? These privacy notices are the window to transparency on how companies and developers will protect your data and rights.” he added.
The NPC is also reminding companies of their responsibilities over face- recognition activities on their platforms, including preventing the abuse or misuse of their customers’ personal data.
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