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RUSSELL WANGERSKY: Time to FaceApp to the truth

A screenshot from the FaceApp website, showing the aging filter.
A screenshot from the FaceApp website, showing the aging filter.

It’s just a bit of harmless fun. A lark, really; a new wrinkle, literally. Take your face and age it 30 years or so, then post it online for all your friends to see.

All you need is the latest popular app, FaceApp, and you’re away to the old age home!

Yet, for some reason, privacy advocates want to wreck all your fun. Don’t give up the rights to your image. Just don’t.

The thing is, they have a point.

While the Russian company that operates FaceApp has said it doesn’t plan to use your likeness in any nefarious way — and isn’t mining for other data — you should at least be aware that you’re giving it the right to do pretty much what it wants to.

Sure, reading the fine print that outlines what you’re agreeing to is always such a waste of time. But stop for a minute and read at least some of it.

“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you. When you post or otherwise share User Content on or through our Services, you understand that your User Content and any associated information (such as your [username], location or profile photo) will be visible to the public.”

Translation: they now essentially own the stuff you give them — i.e., your likeness and anything else that might have been hoovered up in the process. Perpetually, irrevocably and royalty-free.

“You grant FaceApp consent to use the User Content, regardless of whether it includes an individual’s name, likeness, voice or persona, sufficient to indicate the individual’s identity. By using the Services, you agree that the User Content may be used for commercial purposes. You further acknowledge that FaceApp’s use of the User Content for commercial purposes will not result in any injury to you or to any person you authorized to act on its behalf.”

Translation: they have the right to use your face pretty much any they like, even selling it to someone else, and you can’t claim that use will damage you in any way. Even if, I suppose, it was used to make a fake persona for a bot to interfere in an election or suchlike.

But it’s even hairier than that.

Think beyond the privacy concerns.

Sure, reading the fine print that outlines what you’re agreeing to is always such a waste of time. But stop for a minute and read at least some of it.

Say, on a lark, you grab a shot off the internet of your favourite movie star, taken by a professional photographer, and put them through the aging filter for a happy, funny Twitter post.

What happens if the movie star or the photographer get aggrieved with your use of the star’s image and the photographer’s work?

That’s between FaceApp and the movie star, right?

Well … consider what you’ve explicitly agreed to in the terms of use: “You represent and warrant that: (i) you own the User Content modified by you on or through the Services or otherwise have the right to grant the rights and licenses set forth in these Terms; (ii) you agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owed by reason of User Content you stylize on or through the Services; and (iii) you have the legal right and capacity to enter into these Terms in your jurisdiction.”

So, if you use an image in FaceApp and it’s not actually yours, if there are any consequences, they are yours to deal with. You’d be the one paying any fees or penalties.

Keep in mind, FaceApp isn’t really asking for things that other social media giants don’t require you to surrender as well.

The companies are insulated by the legal agreements. That’s not unexpected — the agreements are written for them, in their favour.

When it comes to you, there is no insulation.

But trading your rights away for something as trivial as seeing what you might look like when you get older seems like a high price to pay.

After all, you’ll either see that eventually anyway, or you won’t really care.

I think — at least I hope — I can wait for that.

Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky.


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