How Is FaceApp Different to US Apps?


Because it’s Russian. If this were a YouTube video I’d jokingly say ‘bye’ and put the outro music on. The app’s popularity has blown up in the last week due to its new aging filter, with almost 13 million new users this month alone. But while so many have fallen right into it, others have picked up on privacy concerns – because, shock horror, what if a government could access that data?

I don’t particularly mean to mock people who bring attention to this – of course a Russian company gaining access to so much data (especially photos) is alarming. But it really isn’t any more alarming than the myriad of US owned apps that do the exact same thing.

  • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Messenger
    • WhatsApp (‘secure’ messaging)
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Tumblr
  • TikTok

I’m sure there are many others as well, all of which, if you look at their privacy policies, state rather explicitly that they have access to pretty much everything you do. I did a report for university in 2017 on Facebook’s privacy policy, specifically what types of data they collected and what they used it for. Short answers? Everything, and whatever they damn well please. You give them that right as soon as you hit ‘Agree’ on those T&Cs you didn’t bother reading – who does? Facebook has facial recognition technology, yet the Democrats aren’t moving to investigate them.

There are a number of people who are concerned that the Russian government could use all of this data to help push their election meddling (because, again, only Russia dares to be so antidemocratic), but the reality is that most of this data is already accessible and, once in the hands of these corporate giants, in the online world, it’s there forever. TikTok was blasted this year for illegally collecting data from children without parental consent, for example – even after accounts were supposedly deleted.

Edward Snowden revealed, seemingly to an overly complacent world, the US government collected pretty much everything themselves for… what exactly? I’m sure they just wanted the best user experience for device users. US law enforcement has received a crazy amount of backlash for using facial recognition software, China has rolled out a massive social credit system supported by an invasive CCTV camera setup, and Dutton here in Australia has been introducing more and more Orwellian legislation each year, with facial recognition and data collection at the centre.

The irony of people getting swept up in a wave of hysteria on social media over FaceApp’s privacy concerns is delicious. Russia’s relatively miniscule role in deciding US elections will not explode with the resurgence of a single app. Sure, a foreign government collecting our data is a scary thought – just as scary, perhaps, as multiple US-based transnational corporations and our own governments… Maybe there’s just an inherent structural problem with power?


Like this? Read China’s Surveillance A Dark Mirror of Our Own

Previous piece: Master Theft: George Calombaris

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