Research how app data is used

When you use gadgets or apps, take a bit of time to research what kind of data is used and where it goes. 

Making yourself look old or young with FaceApp has been all the rage the last few weeks, but then some people actually took the time to do some research on the Russia-based company behind the app, and they got worried.

People thought nothing of loading the app and saying yes when it asked for permission to access their camera rolls.

What many of them didn’t realize is that to enhance the photos to make you look young or old, the company copies the photos to its servers for processing.

What happens to your photos once the processing is finished?

Can they keep your pictures?

Sure, they can. But they probably won’t, and they say they don’t.

According to a statement from FaceApp, “We only upload a photo selected by a user for editing. We never transfer any other images from the phone to the cloud.”

It goes on to say, “We might store an uploaded photo in the cloud. The main reason for that is performance and traffic: We want to make sure that the user doesn’t upload the photo repeatedly for every edit operation. Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.”

FaceApp features are available without logging in, and, according to the developers, “99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person.”

If you’re worried about FaceApp having access to your camera roll, there is a way to take pictures from within the app so you can feel pretty safe making yourself look old.

But privacy online is always a concern, especially when there are Chinese or Russian companies involved.

Recently I reviewed a handheld language translator that uses cloud servers and artificial intelligence to translate English to Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and a few other languages.

The translator is made by a Chinese company, and more than one reader asked whether I was concerned about conversations being uploaded to Chinese-owned servers.

I suppose it depends on what you’re talking about.

The translator works by sending audio snippets through your phone, so I suppose it could tie your conversations to your phone and perhaps identify you that way, but I doubt that would be very interesting, at least in my case.

So what can we learn from this?

RESEARCH HOW DATA IS USED

When you use gadgets or apps, take a bit of time to research what kind of data is used and where it goes.

Doing a Google search for the name of the app and security concerns will usually bring up hundreds of articles. Start reading articles from sources you trust. Some of the articles I read about FaceApp were from PBS, TechCrunch and CNET, all news outlets I trust.

Before you install an app on your phone or computer, you should also read the terms and conditions you are agreeing to when you load the app.

Be careful when an app asks you to create an account. And be more careful when an app says you can sign up using your Google, Facebook or Twitter login.

You may be granting that app permission to read your Facebook posts or Tweets and even create posts on your timelines.

It doesn’t hurt to create a “throwaway” email account to use when you are signing up for apps or services you might be worried about.

Be mindful about what apps you upload, and do your research.

Copyright 2019 Tribune Content Agency.

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