Trend Alert: FaceApp

Trend Alert introduces you to the latest brands, products and services that are trending with 16-24s.

This week, a fun photo filter app has gone viral, with people across social media sharing photos of how they’ll look when they’re older. Similar to Snapchat’s gender switch filter, FaceApp offers a realistic image of your future self, and as celebrities (such as the Jonas Brothers, pictured above) and influencers shared their hilarious results, soon FOMO drove millions to try it themselves. It’s been reported that 12.7 million have downloaded the app since July 10, while Forbes claims 150 million people have used it in total.

Following the new filter’s viral success, FaceApp hit the headlines as discussion turned to the mass of user data its creators had accumulated. When it was revealed that the company was based in Russia, rumours spread that they were collecting data for nefarious purposes. There were even calls for an FBI investigation. However, tech journalists have reviewed the app, and stated that as the data is actually hosted on Amazon’s AWS servers, FaceApp’s Russian owners only have access to data on user interactions, and not to images or personal details.

Additionally, tech experts pointed out that the permissions FaceApp demands of users are no different to those requested by most other apps. The only difference is that this time, the owner isn’t based in the US like Facebook or Google, but in Russia. The spread of information around FaceApp’s ownership has created a panic which demonstrates the lack of understanding around data collection and usage. Smartphone users need to consider when they’re downloading a free app, what are they giving in return?

Our latest Youth Trends Report shows that, in the UK, 90% of 16-24s would think less of a brand if they were involved in a data security breach, and young people we have interviewed around this issue say their peers have turned against Facebook due to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. However, Instagram remains their favourite app, and Messenger and WhatsApp are among their favourite ways to chat with friends, suggesting they don’t know or don’t care that these apps are also owned by Facebook.

The controversy around FaceApp shows that people are waking up to the issues around data privacy, but there’s clearly a long way to go before the implications of using our favourite apps are fully understood.

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