The app’s creators rushed to contain the damage. FaceApp’s CEO swore that the company’s servers are not based in Russia, that no user data is sent there, the photos will not end up in facial recognition databases. FaceApp does not, it is told, “sell or share any user data with any third parties.”
Google also swears that it won’t read our email. And don’t get me started about Facebook…
…and never considered what rights I might be surrendering. Well, I’m a moron.
When you talk to Siri, everything you say is harvested. When you use DropBox or Googledocs, the material you deposit also belongs to the cloud owner. FaceApp isn’t some shocking Orwellian device, but cyber-business as usual. Most online apps, platforms and services have overly long, complex, user agreements and privacy policies.
They are written by lawyers specifically to discourage consumers from informing themselves and giving informed consent, and I tell my legal ethics seminars that I consider such practices unethical….because they are, even though no bar association would ever impose discipline.
In a nice bit of irony, even lawyers don’t read those agreements. Then the apps sending send their data, which may include their location, photos, confidential communications and more to ad networks, data brokersand other massive technology companies.
What does it take to get those of us who allow ourselves to be completely reliant on technology for communication, relationships, and entertainment to be responsible about what such dependence entails? Apparently not the alarms we’ve experienced so far. I’ve lost track: was Marriott the latest company to have massive data breach that exposed its trusting customers to malign agents? EquaFax, the Office of Personnel Management, Target, Wells Fargo…however many there have been, there will be more, and worse—count on it.
In legal ethics, the American Bar Association is directing lawyers to make sure they understand the technology they are using, while also telling them that not using technology isn’t an ethical option. These edicts, it appears to me, are written by people who themselves don’t understand the technologies their are making rules about.
The FaceApp freakout was over a relatively harmless example of potentially perilous technology, but if it gets people to think about being so dependent on instrumentality they don’t understand, owned and operated by entities they don’t know or have reason to trust, with agendas, goals and motives that they can’t possibly discern, then good. It has come on in a rush, but understanding our technologies has become a critical part of life competence.
So thanks, FaceApp, for scaring people! Maybe now they’ll think before they text, post, click, share or link.