Apart from the possibility of kickstarting an existential crisis, is it safe to use face-changing software like FaceApp? Past privacy transgressions (and some corners of the internet) suggest there is cause for concern. Learn about the controversy that arises when selfies and cybersecurity mix. 

What is FaceApp?

If you haven’t used FaceApp, you’ve probably seen images generated by its users. It’s a mobile app (available for iOS and Android) that transforms photos of faces. It includes the usual slew of filters and effects typical of photo editing apps, but the reason it’s gone viral is its uncanny ability to photorealistically transform you into someone else. Want to see yourself as a different gender, as a much older person, or with Kardashian-esque “Hollywood Style?” Just run your photo through FaceApp and gawk at the results.

Not So Fast: Learn How FaceApp Works & Check the User Agreement

In order to use FaceApp, you need to give the app access to your device’s camera and/or camera roll. Already, many privacy watchdogs and cybersecurity experts say that granting inessential permissions is something you should think twice about: The more parties with access to your data, the more likely it is to be used in questionable ways. 

What’s the big deal if someone gets ahold of your silly swapped selfie? Essentially, these images have the potential to be used in objectionable ways that are difficult to anticipate. This apprehension arises from the ever-expanding presence of artificial intelligence and facial recognition software, examples of dubious methods that tech companies have profited from similar data, and a few details specific to FaceApp:

Should You Use FaceApp?

While this type of technology generates scandal and debate, there is no proof that FaceApp is operating illegally or overstepping its self-stated bounds. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether you want to risk using it or not. To make an informed decision, remember that your photos represent another piece of personal data that could end up being associated with you forever in the unknown parts of the web, which could have consequences that haven’t even been dreamed up yet.

If you’re like most people, though, privacy transgressions will have little effect on the way you use your phone. A Pew study earlier this year found that even in the wake of Cambridge Analytica – despite documented concerns about data privacy, identity theft and cybersecurity – social media use continues to grow, fueled in part by the irresistible allure of FaceApp and other forms of viral entertainment. Ask yourself: Are you concerned about privacy? If so, at what point do those concerns make you change your behavior?