What the Tech: How safe is this new profile picture app?

Published: May. 13, 2022 at 6:56 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - If you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter the past couple of days, you’ve probably seen some of your friends and followers uploading new profile pictures of themselves as cartoons.

They’re created using a new free app, but there are major concerns about where this app is coming from.

We’ve been looking into the new photo app to answer the question: is it safe?

In case you haven’t been on Facebook the past few days, the app ‘NewProfilePic’ creates cartoonish versions of profile pics. They’re cool looking, and hundreds of thousands of people are using it.

Everyone else is warning friends that the app steals personal information and sends it to the Russians. Some users claim it ran up their credit card bill.

Here’s what we’ve learned. The app is from a company with some developers located in Russia. The company, Linerock, has been behind at least 50 other photo editing apps.

According to its terms of service and privacy policies, the app gathers and shares some user information. Name, email address, location, and social network information. And of course, any photo you give it permission to use.

There’s no evidence it shares any other information with Russia or any other country. It does use artificial intelligence to gather what you look like. But the app claims it deletes that

information after you create the photo. There’s also no evidence that it charges your credit card, Google, or Apple payments without permission.

Where are these warnings coming from? The UK tabloid ‘The Daily Mail’ published the report, and it’s being shared by other news organizations.

That report, just like the app, has gone viral. None of the claims by the tabloid or their “experts” have been verified. How does this free app make money for the company? Through advertisements that play while you use it. Also, from people who sign up for a free trial and forget to cancel. They’re charged $30.

So is it safe to use? We will put it this way: if you’ve already uploaded a photo or signed up to use another free app in the past, this app isn’t going to collect any more of your data than you’ve already shared.

It is a fun app and one, you probably don’t have to worry about.

We reached out to Linerock for more information on the app but are still waiting to hear back. On its blog, the company says it does not share information with Russia and deletes photos after creating the cartoon image.

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