There are reports the viral FaceApp is sending all your photos to Russia. What’s going on?
As with most viral stories, there’s reason to be concerned, but it’s probably not as bad as it sounds. FaceApp, which already caught the attention of security researchers two years ago, is back in the news again with people taking the ‘FaceApp challenge,’ which is posting photos in which the app makes you look much, much older.
It’s a neat effect, using artificial intelligence, but the company behind it is based in Russia. That’s prompted organizations like the Democratic National Committee to issue a warning to all its staff and members to delete the app. Yes, the app uploads photos to its servers to apply the effects, but by all accounts, it’s not taking all of your photos, and most of its servers are run by Amazon in the U.S. The company says it deletes most images from its servers within 48 hours, and that it doesn’t sell or share its user data with any third parties.
The bigger lesson here is to be careful what data you grant access to, since FaceApp isn’t asking for any more access than most apps we use, like Facebook.
If you used FaceApp, and your photo was uploaded, are you basically out of luck?
You can request that all of your data be deleted via the app, though it’s a somewhat manual process. Under the app settings, you can go to the ‘Support’ section, and then ‘Report a Bug.’ Put ‘Privacy’ in the subject line, and then send the message requesting the deletion. Beyond that, you have to just trust that they get the request and delete your data.
And soon, technology could have access to even more, like your brain?
Right. Elon Musk this week announced a project called Neuralink. It’s a brain implant that will connect directly to smartphones or hardware like prosthetic limbs. A lot of people have been working on brain-machine interfaces, but since it’s Elon Musk, people are paying attention. The Neuralink is a tiny chip with Bluetooth and a USB-C port, and it would be implanted in the brain by a robot. As many as 10 can be installed in a patient. Elon Musk says it would help stroke victims, quadriplegics, but could also help boost memory, or even enable a type of telepathy.
How far off is this technology, really?
Elon Musk says in Neuralink testing, a monkey was already able to control a computer with its brain. He said he’d like to see people able to type 40 words per minute just by thinking. And he says he’d like to start human testing by next year. He’s betting on this brain link, and Artificial Intelligence, to bring huge advances in technology.