How Face-Editing Apps Became a Form of Sophisticated Phishing (2023)

On Tuesday night, my phone lit up with images of the elderly. A friend in one of my group texts had downloaded a viral photo-editing software called FaceApp and run each member’s photo through its “Old” filter. For a brief moment, we convened in horror and fascination over our future selves. “I look grumpy,” one member of the chat observed. “Age has been unkind to me,” another concluded. I spent at least 10 minutes examining the lines of my face that the app’s artificial intelligence had generated, obsessing over the loose, leathery skin that awaited me at 80.

The next morning, we all woke up with infosec hangovers. “I’m now in the ‘paranoid that it’s part of surveillance/training neural nets’ phase of interest,” said the same friend who had innocently noted his graying beard the evening before. The rest of the internet seemed to be coming to a similar realization. By Wednesday, everyone from noted old-person cosplayer Heidi Klum to Drake had dutifully run their images through the software and posted them to social media, doing their part to feed the voracious content mill. But that’s around the time that people began to wonder where this digital crystal ball came from, and what it wanted in exchange for this brief peek into the future.

#Warning: Every few years, the #FaceApp comes around.

It's fun.
It draws a lot of people in.
But, it also captures your face along with some of your private data.
It doesn't tell us what it does with that data.

Be careful.

(Video) How Hackers Create Phishing Sites
— scott budman (@scottbudman) July 17, 2019

Scholars of gimmicky photo-editing software know that this is not our first FaceApp rodeo. The app was released in 2017 amid a rush of face-altering services like the Chinese-owned Meitu and drew attention for its quick ability to alter the gender, hairstyle, and age of people’s portraits. Not long after its debut, FaceApp faced backlash for a “Hot” filter that lightened users’ skin tones. Soon after, it came under fire for a tool that turned people into racist caricatures. Nevertheless, it has amassed more than 80 million users.

(Video) Face replacement in video using a still image and Face Tools - After Effects tutorial

Btw you all know FaceApp is a Russian company, right?

Just making sure.

(Video) Revealing the Surprising Ways I Make My Illusions

— Yashar Ali (@yashar) July 17, 2019

With each scandal, the app has set off suspicious side conversations along the lines of: Who are these people, and what are they doing with all our dumb selfies, anyway? FaceApp is owned by a company called Wireless Lab, which is run by a handful of developers in St. Petersburg, Russia. Their origins are of little comfort to digital security hawks, who warned on Twitter that, like many other apps, the company’s broad terms of service gives it license to use your photos, name, username, and likeness for any purpose, including advertisements. Nor did it quell the understandably jittery Democratic National Committee, which sent a security alert to 2020 presidential campaigns on Wednesday afternoon, warning them not to use FaceApp. “This app allows users to perform different transformations on photos of people, such as aging the person in the picture,” DNC chief security officer Bob Lord wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, this novelty is not without risk: FaceApp was developed by Russians. … It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks.” (A DNC press representative confirmed the message.)

FaceApp’s predatory nature has been largely exaggerated. The company’s CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told The Washington Post that, though its research and development team is based in Russia, user data is not transferred into the country and “most images” are removed from FaceApp’s servers within 48 hours. Security researcher Baptiste Robert, who goes by the pseudonym Elliot Alderson, took it upon himself to confirm these details for Forbes. He found that the app transferred only submitted user photos (not entire photo rolls) to company servers, and that those servers were mostly hosted by Amazon and Google in the U.S. “While Russian intelligence or police agencies could demand FaceApp hand over data if they believed it was lawful, they’d have a considerably harder time getting that information from Amazon in the U.S.,” concluded security reporter Thomas Brewster.

It’s a relief to know that the online gag we all turned to for temporary entertainment does not appear to be part of some larger scheme to undermine our democracy. (Though some have argued that late capitalism is a concerning enough scheme on its own.) But the ease at which these face filters go viral, paired with the excessive permissions they seek, mark a new era of meme-propelled information harvesting techniques. The subsequent panic over their terms of service agreements proves that we, as a society, have become riddled with anxiety over predatory online schemes. Soon after the Chinese-owned app Meitu went viral for its anime face filters in 2017, people realized that it sought an uncomfortable amount of tracking information, including access to the GPS on their phones, and deleted it en masse. The following year, when Google released an app that matched people’s selfies to works of art, some privacy experts surmised that the company may have also been using those photos to better train its AI-facial recognition models. In January 2019, Facebook posted side-by-side photos from 2008 and 2018 for something called the #10YearChallenge. But it was only after users had tallied their likes that we considered how the massive social network might be able to leverage the information we willfully provided to it for its own opaque purposes. Selfie-centric, App Store–sanctioned data phishing is now a stressful fact of our online existence.

It’s the same old story, now filtered through advanced software. “Persuading people to do things under the auspices of thinking they’re doing something else has been around forever,” said Crane Hassold, a senior director of threat research at the email security company Agari. “It’s all social engineering. You look back, and the best example from thousands of years ago is the Trojan horse.” Hassold spent 11 years in the FBI analyzing the motivations of criminals both online and off, and now researches the habits of email phishing groups. He traces the same sort of inherent sense of flattery that the Greeks used to invade the independent city of Troy to modern-day information breaches like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which used BuzzFeed-style quiz formats to lure users into sharing personal information with the company. “It’s all about basic human curiosity, and it’s very hard to override that,” Hassold said. “There’s a reason why ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is a very overused saying. Because as human beings, we want to know about ourselves, and if someone is offering information about how we can better understand who we are, we’ll usually take it.”

(Video) See Which Hotels Were Caught Not Changing Bedsheets for New Guests

Traditionally, phishing is an explicitly illegal form of fraud that attempts to goad people into offering personal data via email correspondence. But as third-party companies have boldly extended their reach into users’ personal phone data, a more sanctioned version of this technique has emerged. Apps have found healthy business in selling user information to third-parties. The New York Times reported last year that at least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps. And several of those companies claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States alone. As Facebook has demonstrated, social networks tend to downplay their involvement in such practices or straight-up lie about them.

Though we don’t know for sure whether the FaceApps or Meitus of the world have used our images for those purposes, we do know that they have developed extremely effective schemes for amassing a giant database of our photos—and, depending on the permissions they request—much more. In many ways, these startups are not unlike the Nigerian cybercriminal organization that Hassold recently wrote a report on. Over the span of 10 years, the organization grew from a single sole proprietorship that focused on Craigslist scams to a 35-plus group that has expanded from romance scams to enterprise-focused phishing attacks to government-focused phishing attacks. Though the illegal activities they take part in are far more fraudulent, their structure and general business goals have commonalities with many of the startups that bait us into downloading their apps to participate in a single, fleeting trend.

By meeting us in a digital comfort zone, somewhere in between a pop culture movement and a platform-sanctioned exchange, face-filtering apps enjoy a level of trust that moves far beyond email or phone calls. “If you’re on a third-party website, like a third-party Chinese website and you see some apps on there, there’s probably going to be a little bit of hesitation to trust what those are,” Hassold said. “But when you’re on something like Facebook, or when you download an app from Google Play or iTunes or the App Store, you trust that what’s on there is going to be legitimate.”

Hassold notes that the apparent approval of celebrities makes it all the more dangerous. As a New York Giants fan, he even happened upon the FaceApp filter applied to Saquon Barkley on the team’s official feed. “It’s easy for me to say, if you don’t need it, don’t download it, but that’s not really going to happen,” he said. Like so many times before, predatory capitalism and our own insatiable egos have led us into yet another digital trap. If we’ve learned anything from the past four years, what’s group chat-fodder today might be a democracy-undermining scheme tomorrow.

(Video) Exodus: I tried to fly to London on a fake passport - BBC News


What face editing app is everyone using? ›

YouCam Makeup is the best all-in-one selfie camera app for iPhone and Android users. Aside from glam-up selfies with the best beauty filters, makeup tools, and hair color options, users can also edit faces with dozens of auto AI blemish remover and face shaping tools naturally and easily.

Is FaceApp Editor safe? ›

Mobile apps developed in Russia such as the viral face-editing app FaceApp are a threat to security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed. The FBI warning came on December 2, calling FaceApp and other apps developed in Russia a “potential counterintelligence threat.”

Is FaceApp a hack? ›

FaceApp is not a hacking or malware danger, according to the evidence.

What is Myface app? ›

FaceApp is a photo and video editing application for iOS and Android developed by FaceApp Technology Limited, a company based in Cyprus. The app generates highly realistic transformations of human faces in photographs by using neural networks based on artificial intelligence.

Why do people edit photos? ›

Photo editing allows photographers to enhance the image and stylize it in ways that would not be possible in-camera. Without it, it's much harder to make your photos stand out from the crowd.

Does FaceApp delete your photos? ›

According to Tech Crunch, FaceApp says "most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date." To be sure, you can always go into your settings and revoke the access you granted the app in the first place. Go to Settings, scroll down to FaceApp, and flip the switch to remove the access.

How good is FaceApp? ›

Faceapp is a good application with very good results when it comes to editing your face, I think that many media have classified it as a virus because it comes from Russia but it is safe to use, I consider that you should only use the application to touch up some detail or it will create a false image of you which is ...

Does FaceApp collect data? ›

Best answer: FaceApp does collect some information from you, but it doesn't data mine you. It's no more dangerous than uploading photos to Facebook. The big difference is this company is Russian based, which could be a concern for some people.

Does FaceApp upload your photos? ›

FaceApp uploads and processes our photos in the cloud, Goncharov said, but the app will “only upload a photo selected by a user for editing.” The rest of your camera roll stays on your phone. You can also use FaceApp without giving it your name or email — and 99 percent of users do just that, he said.

Is FaceApp Age accurate? ›

Dover, OH facial plastic surgeon David Hartman, MD says the app skillfully adds 35 to 55 years to these celebrities' faces—and the bad news is that it does a pretty accurate job. "The Face App does a reasonably accurate job at morphing facial photos to predict where a face is heading," Dr. Hartman says confidently.

Is FaceApp owned by Russia? ›

FaceApp was launched in 2017 by developer Wireless Lab OOO based out of Saint-Petersburg, Russia, according to FaceApp's terms page. [FaceApp] seems to be from Russia, but that doesn't mean that's the only place that malicious or even nonfeasanced actors come from.

What apps make you look better? ›

Facetune is like Photoshop without all of the hard work. Whether you want to have some fun by trying out new looks, or are perfecting a selfie, Facetune is a blast. You can widen your smile, brighten your teeth, smooth out your skin, emphasize your eyes, apply makeup, and even reshape your face to look more defined.

Which app shows your future face? ›

Top 3 age progression apps in 2022: YouCam Makeup (iOS / Android) [FREE] FaceApp (iOS / Android) FaceLab: Face Editor, Aging (iOS / Android)

What app makes you look younger? ›

1. FaceApp. FaceApp uses artificial intelligence technology to edit photos. It can make you look younger or older and even change your gender.

What's the FaceApp everyone uses on Instagram? ›

FaceApp: Best Selfie Editor (@faceapp) • Instagram photos and videos.

How do you edit a face in a photo? ›

How to Easily Swap Faces in Photoshop - YouTube

How do I use FaceApp? ›

How To Use FaceApp & Why It is Trending Right Now?? - YouTube

What are the importance of editing? ›

In short, editing removes errors, improves your work flow, and enhances your language and style. Why would your writing not benefit from a little TLC? Editing is crucial for fixing the last few problems with your writing to make it ready to go out into the world and be read.

Why do people edit their photos on social media? ›

Background. The use of social media and photo-editing practice has grown enormously over the past decades. Photo editing can alter a person's desire to look better in photographs posted on social media platforms.

What app is used to edit pictures? ›

PicsArt (Android, iOS)

PicsArt is our top pick of the best photo editing apps, because it's fun, easy to use, yet covers just about all the bases for consumer mobile photography. It provides lots of creative control, excellent image-editing tools and a large variety of attractive filters.

Who created FaceApp? ›

FaceApp, which launched in 2017, was developed by Wireless Lab, a company based in St. Petersburg. Its chief executive officer, Yaroslav Goncharov, used to be an executive at Yandex, widely known as “Russia's Google.”

How do I delete data from FaceApp? ›

In FaceApp, go to settings in the upper left-hand corner, then go to Support. Click “Report bug and send logs.” Ask for your data to be deleted and be sure to include the word “privacy” in the request.

How do I remove a FaceApp watermark? ›

Tap Go Pro to pay for your FaceApp subscription. Tap the X in the upper left corner. Tap the toggle next to Watermark to remove it from future photos.

Is FaceApp easy to use? ›

The interface of FaceApp is easy to use and will allow you to edit both new selfie photos taken within the app's camera or older photos you've already got on your phone. Either is easy to do from FaceApps home screen.

Is FaceApp safe for kids? ›

The terms of FaceApp say the app and its content are not intended or directed at children under the age of 13.

Does FaceApp work for videos? ›

Well, FaceApp now brings that very same magic to the video format, as it can make you look old in video selfies as well. That filter happens to be the most fun to play around with, but the 'Young' option is also available, as are some other ones.

Why do people use FaceApp? ›

Viral app FaceApp has been giving people the power to change their facial expressions, looks, and now age for several years. But at the same time, people have been giving FaceApp the power to use their pictures — and names — for any purpose it wishes, for as long as it desires.

Does Facetune keep your photos? ›

For Android: Facetune does not store your images within the app, it reads them from your device's Gallery. However, we do store editing projects so that you can continue working your magic at a later time.

How much is FaceApp a month? ›

The basic version has 21 filters and the Pro version has 28 filters. The cost of the monthly subscription is just $3.99, while you can get the annual subscription at $19.99 and life-time license at $39.99.

How do you tell if a photo has been Facetuned? ›

Another way to spot a picture that's been photoshopped is by examining the way light interacts with the objects in the photo. Shadows and highlights will appear to violate the laws of physics, especially when a subject has been removed or added to a photo.

Can apps steal my photos iPhone? ›

Many apps require access to your iPhone to be able to display a selection of photos to choose from in the app in order to perform a certain action with them. Examples include image editing apps, Instagram, Snapchat etc. Because they have access to your photo gallery, apps could in theory copy and “steal” your photos.

Is Facetune safe? ›

Google engineers have looked into the app's security. And independent cybersecurity researchers told The New York Times that concerns about FaceApp are overblown. “This isn't a malicious app, but it is one of many apps that raise privacy issues,” Chrysaidos said. “This isn't an urgent issue, but it is a prevalent one.

How is FaceApp so realistic? ›

FaceApp uses Generative Adversarial Networks to train its program to create specific categories of realistic images. It then transfers the features to the photo uploaded by the user, giving it the desired category of the filter.

Does FaceApp look real? ›

And Goncharov explains that the fact that FaceApp is so realistic is what sets it apart from any of its competition. "Our main differentiator is photorealism," he said. "After applying a filter, it is still your photo. Other apps intentionally change a picture in a way it is entertaining, but not a real photo anymore."

Do celebrities Use FaceApp? ›

The FaceApp first went viral around two years ago and recently became very popular among popular celebrities and Internet users once more.

Does the FaceApp steal your identity? ›

FaceApp, the Russian photo editing app that made its debut two years ago, is going viral again with its feature that allows users to look younger or older.

Is FaceApp banned? ›

Faceapp Ban For Indians Removed

However, today morning, images are being uploaded, and the app is working fine for all Indians. Some experts had recommended using VPN or Virtual Private Network to access the services, in case they have blocked for Indians.

Where is the fun tab on FaceApp? ›

It's at the bottom of the screen. The filters on this tab are all free, while those on the Style tab are for Pro users only. The Fun filters include different genders, ages, and goofy facial expressions.

How can I edit a picture of myself? ›

How to Edit Your Selfies
  1. Make Basic Adjustments. You don't need a third-party app to make basic adjustments, as most smartphones come with a photo app that has all the essential editing features. ...
  2. Use Automated Settings. ...
  3. Crop It. ...
  4. Select a Filter. ...
  5. Use a Beautifying App. ...
  6. Don't Go Overboard. ...
  7. Get Creative.
26 Aug 2021

How old does my face look app? ›

YouCam Makeup is the best free selfie app to find out how old you look. Start by downloading the free YouCam Makeup app, and you'll be able to take advantage of the Time Machine tool, which can tell you how old you look by taking a photo or uploading one from your gallery.

How can I edit a picture to look younger? ›

How to Make Someone Look Younger – Photoshop Tutorial - YouTube

How do you age a baby with pictures? ›

Today, with baby age progression apps, you can almost see your future self. These apps specialize in generating an instant realistic aged photo or model of your baby's face.
Best Baby Age Progression Apps
  1. FaceApp. ...
  2. YouCam Makeup. ...
  3. Snapchat. ...
  4. AgingBooth. ...
  5. TikTok Aging Filter. ...
  6. Make Me Old. ...
  7. Oldify. ...
  8. Face Cam.
16 Feb 2022

What is the app that changes your age? ›

One of the reasons that have helped FaceApp become popular is the accuracy with which it edits selfies and make people look older or younger. The app, which is available for download on Android and iOS devices, applies filters to change your age or gender or add a smile to your selfie.

Which is better Facetune or FaceApp? ›

We would say that Facetune is the superior app for three main reasons: Facetune offers video editing. The retouching options are more in line with a natural look (i.e. the aging features or the face swap features on Face App are fun, but not super practical for everyday edits) Facetune provides more filter options.

What apps make you look better? ›

Facetune is like Photoshop without all of the hard work. Whether you want to have some fun by trying out new looks, or are perfecting a selfie, Facetune is a blast. You can widen your smile, brighten your teeth, smooth out your skin, emphasize your eyes, apply makeup, and even reshape your face to look more defined.

What app can Photoshop faces? ›

You Might Also Like
  • Face Swap Live Lite. Photo & Video.
  • Cut and paste my face in photo. Photo & Video.
  • Cut Paste Photos - Retouch. Photo & Video.
  • Cut & Paste Photos. Photo & Video.
  • Face Swap Video: Tune Face App. Photo & Video.
  • FaceMagic: Ai face swap videos. Photo & Video.

How do you replace a face in a video with another face? ›

FaceMagic (Android and iOS) Powered by AI, FaceMagic can swap your face or your friend's face in any video, photo, and GIF. And this app allows you to upload any videos from your gallery to create custom face swap videos. Also, you can choose from the built-in sources of videos, photos, and GIFs.

What filter makes your face look perfect? ›


This selfie editor app features tons of free beauty and color filters and easy-to-use tools that allow you to enhance your facial features. This includes contouring your jaws, changing your hair color, enlarging your eyes, taming your eyebrows, and so on. These all make you look better in an instant.

What app makes you look younger? ›

1. FaceApp. FaceApp uses artificial intelligence technology to edit photos. It can make you look younger or older and even change your gender.

How do you edit a face in a photo? ›

How to Easily Swap Faces in Photoshop - YouTube

How does FaceApp make you look better? ›

Working of FaceApp – The App That Makes You Look Old

On doing so, this app uses the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect the right spots for smile, wrinkles, and other features on your face. It then analyzes what difference will appear in those sections when applying the old age or any other filter.

How can I edit a picture of myself? ›

How to Edit Your Selfies
  1. Make Basic Adjustments. You don't need a third-party app to make basic adjustments, as most smartphones come with a photo app that has all the essential editing features. ...
  2. Use Automated Settings. ...
  3. Crop It. ...
  4. Select a Filter. ...
  5. Use a Beautifying App. ...
  6. Don't Go Overboard. ...
  7. Get Creative.
26 Aug 2021

Is there an app to change faces in pictures? ›

Get photos of your friends and use Faceover Lite to swap their faces. Copy the eyes of a celebrity and paste them onto a photo of yourself.

How do you change faces on the app? ›

This fun photo editing activity lets you switch up your face with your friends or your favorite celebrities and create hilarious edits in seconds.
Which app is the best for swapping faces in pictures?
  1. YouCam Perfect.
  2. Reface: Face Swap Videos.
  3. Snapchat.
  4. Faceover: Photo Face Swap.
  5. Face Swap Live.
31 Jul 2022

What is the face swap app called? ›

The app is available on iOS and Android devices.
Face Swap Live.
Developer(s)Laan Labs
TypePhoto Sharing, Video Software
3 more rows

How do you put a face on another body without Photoshop for free? ›

How to put a face on another body without photoshop 2022 - YouTube

How do you change faces in Premiere Pro? ›

Face replacement in video using a still image and Face Tools - YouTube


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