FaceApp Ageing Challenge: No, the Russians aren't stealing all your photos

Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton when they’re Willie Nelson’s ageIn the last few days you’ve probably seen what loads of your friends and favourite celebrities will look like decades from now.
Thanks to the ageing filter on FaceApp, which uses AI to project their appearance as a much older person, a new social media challenge has gone viral.
However, amid the excitement, fears were raised that the application launched by a Russian developer 2 years ago, is harvesting users’ entire photo libraries (via The Verge).
The concerns, which were raised when the app first shot to prominence and have returned with this week’s renewed notoriety, seem to centre on the Russia factor.
While those who’ve looked into the matter have found no evidence the app is harvesting photos from the user library, it does take the photo in question and upload to the cloud for processing, rather than locally on the device.

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using a network traffic analyzer, I tried to replicate the thing people are talking about with FaceApp allegedly uploading your full camera roll to remote servers, but I did not see the reported activity occur.
here is marlo stanfiekd with a beard though pic.twitter.com/6wy8cHLNuA
— Will Strafach (@chronic) July 17, 2019

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This is something that a lot of apps do, but it appears FaceApp might be being picked on for the Russia connection. Perhaps suspicions of all things Russian have been heightened by millions of us smashing through Stranger Things Season 3 in the last couple of weeks?
The developer denied the alleged harvesting and said it only takes the photos users specifically ask it to transform. On top of that the images don’t go back to Russia, the processing is carried out on servers in the US.
Yaroslav Goncharov, the company’s CEO said: “FaceApp performs most of the photo processing in the cloud. We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.”
The firm also told TechCrunch that it accepts requests from users to remove the data from its services, but it is currently overloaded with requests to do so, so it may take a while. The process can be started by visiting Settings > Support > Report a bug and placing “privacy in the subject line.”
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