Jim Fisher

So if you’ve hung out on the internet anytime these past few days, you’ve probably seen people ruining pictures of themselves using a smartphone app called “FaceApp.” FaceApp uses neural network technology (a type of very powerful, self-learning computer) to generate highly realistic transformations of faces in photographs. The app can make a face smile, frown, look younger, look older, add disguises, or even change gender. Most people seem to be making themselves look old which is something most of us do naturally.

The app is free on the iPhone and Android app stores and I’m always skeptical of “free.” I’m sure I don’t have to tell either of my readers that there is no such thing as “free.” So what is this hidden price of this free app? Keep in mind that this article is about FaceApp but I could change a few words in this article and make it about any one of thousands of other apps.

You guys remember Cambridge Analytica, right? They released a free “psychological profile” app that ended up being (mis)used for political purposes and helped deliver the presidency to Donald Trump by delivering incredibly detailed information about US citizens without user’s permission. So we are justified in being skeptical of these things but how serious of a threat is FaceApp?

FaceApp’s headquarters are in Russia so that should generate red flags. The app does not have permission to access all your photos on your phone as some apps do so that’s reassuring. Like so many other apps, it makes money from targeted advertisements. You can purchase the professional version that will grant you extra beard styles, hair colors, change your emotions, and add sunglasses. Why anyone would want that for about $2 per month or $40 for lifetime membership so they can add sunglasses to their own picture is beyond my imaginings. If that’s your thing, I ain’t judgin’.

Since I started writing this article yesterday, I have seen numerous other outlets stealing my article’s thunder. Many news sites are making this a much bigger deal than is warranted. FaceApp’s privacy policy doesn’t really state anything out of the ordinary. Like all such apps, FaceApp can share the information it gathers from you with their advertisers who will deliver ads that are suited to your tastes. In order to deliver targeted ads, they will have access to your internet browsing history including the websites you visit and your location. Virtually ALL apps require these kinds of permissions.

The bottom line is that (other than the Russian connection) there’s nothing more or less disturbing about this app compared to others out there. You should know that you give up just a little more of your soul every time you download these kinds of apps. I’m not going to join my thunder-stealers by condemning this app, but I will assert that we should all at least ponder the underlying motivations of these before downloading them and act accordingly.

Jim Fisher owns Excel Computer Services in Florence. Reach him at www.ExcelAL.com