Is FaceApp a danger to your privacy?

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019
News 12 at 6 o'clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- You've probably seen the pictures all over your social media feed, everyone making themselves look old or young through an app called FaceApp.

It seems harmless and pretty entertaining, but are you exposing your privacy?

It's a funny app and we had a good laugh in the newsroom. We tried it out before reading the fine print and it turns out it can be dangerous, especially when the app developer is from another country.

"It's something as harmless as taking an old photo of yourself but I think at the same time it's always smart to be conscious especially in the days of social media, you have to be conscious of what you're sharing, what you're putting out there," said Alex Mende, a law student.

Alex Mende saw his friends using the app on Facebook but says he would not download it. As a law student, he says it's the fine print you have to watch out for.

“It's good to read the agreement, read where it's coming from, read what you're sharing and what you're putting out there and all the fine terms that come with it," said Mende.

Amethyst Smiley says she's guilty of not reading privacy policies before downloading apps.

"I think it's something I would just mindlessly do, add the app to see the cool effect," said Smiley.

GBI Cyber Crime Agent Charles Kicklighter says it's better to steer clear from apps like this.

"Anytime you have to give up any information on your phone, there's always somebody that's willing to exploit that information," said Kicklighter.

FaceApp requires permission to access your photos but once they're downloaded, the developer has access and control over them. Once data leaves your phone, it's not yours anymore.

“It's all about money. These companies they're not doing it because they want people to have fun," said Kicklighter.

If you do get harmed because of this app, Kicklighter says they may not even be able to do anything about it because the developer is in Russia.

"Since they are out of country they don't have to honor U.S. legal process," said Kicklighter.

Alex says that alone was a red flag for him.

"Don't download from Russians," said Mende.

The app is also tracking your location and constantly uses data and log file information that says when you visit a page or an app. Kicklighter says this can also be a new tool for child exploitation because now predators have the ability to make a child think they are younger than they actually are and vice versa.

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