Saturday, February 20, 2021

FaceApp - Is This Love From Russia Safe?

*IMPORTANT* This Russian App should be banned from the App Store while Russia invades Ukraine. 

With over 100 million downloads, FaceApp is a viral App sensation from Russia that works on both IOS and Android. There is an assortment of filters and effects found in most photo editing apps, but this App has gone ballistic because of its remarkable face transformation features. 


Here's a list of alterations available: Impressions, Smiles, Beards, Gender (weird), Face Swap, Age, Hair Styles, Hair Colors, Face Sizes, Glasses, Makeup, Retouch, and then filters. 

It also provides a way to isolate the person and change the background. This comes from their DeepAI  segmentation model. 


Impressive right?

So what is the big concern about security with this App? Well, there is a general distrust of Facial Recognition and sharing of altered face images. This kind of face editing requires advanced AI  recognition and alteration. Skeptics also say that facial recognition is one of the tools that our government might use to bypass human rights and individual privacy and that it has the potential for identity theft.  

To be honest, I love this App. And there are hundreds of Apps now, include those from Apple, that alter faces for entertainment. I don't believe this is an issue with most Apps. And so what if this App comes from Russia? Well, there is one problem that I'm concerned about. How does this App work its magic? What is the technology behind this remarkable App?

The magic is in the use of AI models like segmentation, face recognition, and the application of effects and styles. I have no problem with any of that cool technology, but I didn't see how these models were installed. So I decided to disconnect my phone from the internet. Whoops! Here is the message I got. 

So to process your face images, those images need to be sent off to Russia With Love where they are processed, not on your phone, but on a distant server. For me, that is a bit of a problem. There is some security risk when your personal image data is uploaded to an unknown server. 

But I guess I'm willing to take that risk for now because the App is so much fun to use. But if you are at work or using someone else's images, you should probably find an App that does its magic on your own device. 

I should mention that this App is free but they charge for what they call their Pro features like more effects; and most of their features are Pro features. You will also need their Pro version to get rid of the FaceApp watermark. 


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