More than 12 million new users downloaded FaceApp in the past week, but now people are concerned that the Russian app could be misusing their photos.
- FaceApp is currently the most popular free app on iPhone and Android, but there are growing concerns about the app's data-collection policies and Russia-based development team.
- More than 86 million people have installed FaceApp since it first debuted in early 2017 and 12.7 million first-time users have downloaded the app since July 10, according to data from SensorTower.
- FaceApp said it usually only keeps user photos for about two days, and the support team is prioritizing inquiries to delete user data for good, but there's a way to fast-track your deletion request.
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More than 12.7 million new users have downloaded FaceApp in the past week, making the Russian photo-editing app the most popular free app on both Apple's App Store and Google Play.
But as interest in FaceApp reaches a fever pitch, the app's vague terms of service and privacy policies has some users concerned about how the company handles their data.
FaceApp's data policies and ties to Russia raise security concerns in the US
FaceApp's terms of service give the company license to use photos uploaded by users for commercial purposes. It also gives the company permission to store photos on its server even after the user deletes them from the app.
The policy says the data could be retained to comply with "certain legal obligations," but there is no written limitation on how long the data can be kept.
On July 17, FaceApp issued a statement claiming that the company does not retain user data and deletes "most images" within 48 hours. FaceApp said it does not sell user information or photos to other companies, though it does give data to ad services to place user-specific advertisements within the app.
FaceApp's statements are mostly supported by independent research; several cybersecurity experts have tracked the app's data transfer process have said that it functions in a similar fashion to many other apps. However, FaceApp's sudden surge in popularity and Russian origins have prompted public concern over how user data is handled.
Sen. Chuck Schumer has requested that the Federal Trade Commission investigate FaceApp's business practices and relationship to the Russian government, and the Democratic National Committee told 2020 presidential candidates not to use the app. The concerns come more than a year after Special Counselor Robert Mueller indicted more than a dozen Russian citizens for interfering with the 2016 presidential election.
How to delete your FaceApp data
As mentioned earlier, deleting all of your photos or uninstalling the app doesn't necessarily mean that FaceApp hasn't retained copies of your photos or other data. The company said its support team is prioritizing requests to delete personal data, so if you want to make sure all of your data is erased, your best bet is to contact the company directly.
In a statement offered to TechChrunch, FaceApp said the best way to request your data deletion is to use the "report a bug" feature within the app itself.
You'll have to go into Settings, then Support to find the Report function. FaceApp recommends placing the word "privacy" in the subject line to speed up the process.
The company said the support team is currently backlogged with requests, so you may need to wait awhile to have your data removed. FaceApp says it's planning to create an easier process for data deletion as well.
So far security experts have not detected any unusual practices with the current version of FaceApp, but as with all apps, users should be mindful of their lack of control when sharing photos and other personal data.