Why do people use the Face app

FaceApp: Wrinkled faces and stolen data

Hair gray to the tips, wrinkles as deep as ravines and skin that gives in to gravity. It is a fate that sooner or later catches up with us all. Life in old age is something that young people especially like to ignore. But right now, many can't wait to watch their bodies grow old.

A program called "FaceApp" lets people age by decades within a few seconds. A photo and a few clicks are enough. The social networks are full of wrinkled faces. Celebrities join in and have triggered a worldwide hype that hardly anyone can ignore.

Virtual pony and hipster beard

Star DJ David Guetta suddenly looks like he's had a 60-year career. The boy band "Jonas Brothers" is about to move into the year 3000. But a self-experiment shows: The "FaceApp" works surprisingly well not only with celebrities. My future self has a terrifying resemblance to my own father or grandfather. The "FaceApp" saves the paternity test at the same time.

A look into the future? DW author Patrick Gro├če after aging in the "FaceApp"

After the first shock has subsided, the next follows: The app is an example of how well images can be manipulated without being noticed today. Behind the program is an artificial intelligence that knows the natural processes of the aging process and can apply it to every face.

But that's not all: Anyone who wants to conjure up a few years younger, try a new hairstyle or hide missing beard can do so with the "FaceApp". First of all, users have to be content with a virtual pony and a hipster beard. Bigger changes require bigger investments. Additional features, such as a mustache, are only available as a subscription for a one-time fee of 44 euros or 20 euros per year.

Younger, friendlier, more beautiful: the "FaceApp" has many functions

Millions of people seem to have enjoyed the features of the "FaceApp". It is a complete success for the Russian developer "Wireless Lab". The app is number one on the download charts for Apple and Android worldwide. But success comes late: the app has been on the market for around two years. It seems like sheer coincidence that celebrities around the world have now discovered her for themselves.

Retired photos for Vladimir Putin?

Only after the hype about the "FaceApp" had reached the app stores and social media did the first critical voices be heard. The company behind the app, "Wireless Lab", is based in Saint Petersburg. You can find out in the terms and conditions of the app. Otherwise nothing is known about the company. If you take a closer look at the terms and conditions and the data protection declaration, the fun of the app should pass. The company not only collects user data, it also saves the images. Critics fear that the Russian state could use them for its own purposes. But what should Vladimir Putin do with pictures of millions of wrinkled people?

Nothing, says company boss Yaroslav Goncharov. Namely, only the original images of the users would be uploaded and edited. Actually, that would also be possible in the app itself. Goncharow explains, however, that the performance of the app would be improved by uploading the images to a cloud.

The servers for this would not be in Russia, but in the USA, Singapore or Ireland, for example, and would belong to Amazon or Google. In addition, most of the images would be deleted within 48 hours. Other metadata should also not be passed on to third parties, except to advertising partners. This is by no means new; Facebook and Google are also known to use data on a large scale or pass it on.

The "opposing power"

The critics do not really want to trust the statements of the company boss. Important personal data could fall into the wrong hands, warned Germany's highest data protection officer Ulrich Kelber. The terms of use are too "vague".

A Russian company that collects data and stores photos? In the USA all alarm bells are ringing. Since Russia reportedly interfered in the 2016 presidential election, politicians have been forewarned. And so the FBI could soon deal with the "FaceApp".

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to the agency. Together with the consumer protection agency, the FBI should investigate whether the developers of the app pass on data from US citizens to third parties. It is "deeply worrying" that "an opposing power that commits cyber crimes against the US" could get personal information. Campaigners in the upcoming White House race should delete the app immediately, the Democrats urged.

Much remains unclear

After the first wave of outrage subsided, experts also came forward warning of excessive panic. A French security expert using the pseudonym Elliot Alderson has checked which data the app passes on in the background without being noticed. In fact, only the photos that the user selects would be uploaded, he told the Guardian. Previously, rumors circulated on social networks that "FaceApp" would upload all the photos stored on the mobile phone.

Otherwise, the app would only pass on the model and serial number of the smartphone - data that most other apps also save in order to analyze usage. The fear of the "FaceApp" only arose from the fact that the company responsible is based in Russia, says the expert from France. However, it is still unclear whether the photos of the users in the background will be used for other purposes. Just as unclear as the question of whether the app can approximately predict our appearance in old age.