The popular application FaceApp, which offers users a peek at what they might look like in the future, raises numerous privacy concerns, according to experts.
Developed by the Russian company Wireless Lab in 2017, FaceApp uses an artificial intelligence algorithm to generate highly realistic transformations of faces in photos.
The app went viral on social media by enabling people to look younger, older, or even change their gender.
“When you download the app, it accesses your private data, photo gallery, mail address, phone book or even your bank account,” warned Ali Burak Daricili, a political scientist at Bursa Technical University in northwestern Turkey.
“So you’re letting others intrude into your personal space by downloading the app.”
Daricili, author of A Comparative Analysis of U.S. and Russian Cyber Security Strategies, said research is needed to find out why the app suddenly became popular.
“It may not be a matter of concern for ordinary citizens, but if you’re a senior state official or engineer, your motivations, weaknesses, or sexual orientation could be revealed,” said Daricili.
Such people could be blackmailed and even forced to become spies, he said.
He was skeptical about whether users’ data could be seized by Russian intelligence.
“The U.S. is one of the countries that is concerned about FaceApp since it considers Russia its strongest intelligence threat,” said Daricili.
He said the U.S. takes the issue seriously since it is often hard to detect Russian espionage, which can target U.S. national security, industrial technology, or research and development activities.
As for individual users, he stressed: “Avoiding such applications is an ideal way to protect yourself. You can at least delete the app after using it.”