Austin tech expert weighs in on risks of FaceApp

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– More than 100 million people around the world have downloaded the popular phone app FaceApp, and it is now the top-ranked app in the iOS App Store in 121 countries.

The app, created in 2017 by Russian startup Wireless Labs, allows users to digitally make themselves look older through uploaded photos.

It’s picked up more popularity thanks to the new FaceApp Challenge on social media sites like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

However, reports of security risks have people concerned about it.

According to the app’s terms and conditions, it has the right to modify, reproduce and publish any of the images you process through the app. This started a wildfire of posts and articles this week questioning just how secure the app is.

Spencer Coursen, a nationally-recognized threat management expert, says people are no more at risk using FaceApp than they are using any other social media apps on their phones.

“Make sure you only allow these apps to have access to what you choose to share and you should be good to go, privacy wise,” Coursen said.

Coursen also says that given the upcoming election season, there’s a noticeable concern of Russian interference so it comes as no surprise that this new trend being ultimately controlled from the start-up in St. Petersburg and its close proximity to Moscow, red flags were raised. 

He says however it appears that security concerns online have gone mostly unfounded. 

“It could be another conspiracy theory,” Coursen said. “A lot of those go around when those get popular of people just go with the flow and jump on the bandwagon.”

Coursen says while the app does process the image in the cloud, as opposed to on the user’s own device, FaceApp has been shown by security experts to use Amazon and Google web services platforms mostly based in the United States, Ireland, and Australia. 

However, the owners of this information are still based in Russia, which means that they do in fact have access to whatever you upload to the cloud, and as the terms of service articulate.

Coursen says users should still exercise a healthy sense of skepticism and a moderate dose of vigilance anytime they do anything online and should never share any information with a social media app that they want to keep private. 

He says anything you do online, stays online forever.