FaceApp has created a lot of ripples and generated an awareness about privacy and misuse of personal data, and in the case of FaceApp, the photos of users. I have been seeing a lot of people debating about it on news channels and lots of people sharing their concerns on this subject on different news platforms. However, the issue is not FaceApp, it is the Indian mindset of oversharing. We love to share a lot about our lives, and such apps and social media give us a platform to be able to share.
However, for me it is very strange as apps have been taking access to personal data of users including photos since when most of them came into existence. Whether its Facebook or Instagram all of them acquire rights to everything posted, and users have never resented. However, something about FaceApp seems to have triggered a fear and debate on privacy. Ideally almost all Apps gain access to data which they should not and the consents are vaguely worded specifically in a manner to ensure that a user barely understands them. FaceApp gains access to the photo you upload and shows you an image of how you would look in old age, it modifies your photo and shares the same with you. Is it the modification which is raising the fear or simply media or professionals seeking to bring this issue to the limelight?
Any photo shared in the internet can be misused and morphed. There are so many cases of Revenge porn which consist of morphed images or videos of exes. Even celebrities have not been spared and their images are morphed too, however, it has never caused a nationwide frenzy. Any image shared on the internet can be misused and simply using FaceApp does not make you more vulnerable. If you are active on social media, posting your photos, then you are already vulnerable, but you may not have given it a thought, as the high of likes and comments covers up any of the risks incurred.
Gangs kidnapping children use Game Apps targeted at children to identify location of children and kidnap them. Some gangs also scout social media profiles in search of children, and parents posting photos of their children simply do not realise that they are plainly exposing their children to child peadophiles or kidnappers. Such criminals have private forums where they circulate the photos of the children and then based on response, requirement and money offered by members they proceed to commit the offence. However, this has never raised a frenzy among parents who post the first day of school with photos of their children along with tagging the school and revealing the school timings too.
Privacy on social media has always been a matter of concern. There was a frenzy sometime back about FaceBook sharing user data, and suddenly people were anti-FaceBook, however, everyone was readily sharing using WhatsApp, which is also owned by FaceBook.
The key to safe usage of the internet is to refrain from sharing too much. Social media has caused a culture where people share everything about their lives on a platform without thinking of the repurcussion. Today too people have willingly shared their photos with FaceApp for the thrill of sharing with their friends over social media, how they would look when they grow old.
Prevention is better than cure. Rather than thinking of how misuse of data can happen, its better to restrain and share only essential data. Even if a platform does not misuse user data, its systems can be attacked or compromised leading to a data leak.
User education is a must. Next time you share any photo or data, simply ask yourself these questions- Why do I need to share this? Who is going to view this? If misused then what can happen? If I don’t share this will it make any difference to my life or to that of others on my social media platform circle?
Puneet Bhasin is a recipient of 5 national awards for her contribution to the field of Cyber Laws.