What is FaceApp, the program everyone is using to find out what they’ll look like as an old person?
You might have noticed an odd trend suddenly taking off this week: Your favorite celebrities — and friends and family — are uploading photos of themselves that look suspiciously . . . older.
It’s not your eyes playing tricks on you. FaceApp, an AI program that allows users to apply different filters to selfies, has reportedly updated a feature that adds wrinkles, jowls, and silver hair to your face for a glimpse of what you’ll look like a few decades down the road.
So why is everyone so excited to upload their #FaceAppChallenge photos online? The answer seems to be pretty simple: The one thing that has made the app catch fire so quickly is how realistic it looks.
According to Complex.com, although the app has been popular since its original release in 2017, it’s spreading widely again thanks to the company releasing a new and improved “old age” filter Tuesday.
That’s not all the photo-editing app offers: Users can add bangs, try out a different hair color, or add a different smile. There are additional filters for those willing to shell out a few extra bucks.
Although the app — from developers at Wireless Lab in Saint Petersburg, Russia — is free to download and has more than 80 million users worldwide, the sudden uptick in popularity has also drawn attention to privacy concerns and just how much data the app collects.
FaceApp officials provided a statement to the Globe Wednesday afternoon about privacy concerns, saying that the app transfers to the cloud only the photos selected by the user.
“The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation,” FaceApp representatives said. “Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.”
FaceApp also said that it accepts requests from users to remove all data from their servers. The officials said the company does not share any user data with third parties, and that even though research and development is based in Russia, “the user data is not transferred to Russia.”
This isn’t the first time FaceApp has been at the center of a controversy. In 2017, executives at the company apologized for building an algorithm that whitened users’ skin in what was called the “hotness” filter.
Read the full statement FaceApp sent to the Globe:
“1. 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.
“2. We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: we want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.
“3. We accept requests from users for removing all their data from our servers. Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority. For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using “Settings->Support->Report a bug” with the word “privacy” in the subject line. We are working on the better UI for that.
“4. All FaceApp features are available without logging in, and you can log in only from the settings screen. As a result, 99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person.
“5. We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties.
“6. Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.
“Additionally, we’d like to comment on one of the most common concerns: all pictures from the gallery are uploaded to our servers after a user grants access to the photos (for example, https://twitter.com/joshuanozzi/status/1150961777548701696). We don’t do that. We upload only a photo selected for editing. You can quickly check this with any of network sniffing tools available on the internet.”
Previous Globe coverage was used in this report.