On Wednesday, the hosts of NBC’s Today show were delighted by the latest viral craze sweeping the nation, FaceApp, an app that allows users to upload photos of themselves to see what they would like at different ages or even as a different gender. However, on Thursday, the journalists realized that they just handed over images of themselves to a Russian-backed company behind the suddenly popular app.
“Plus, coming of age. We’ll take a look at the growing old photo craze gone viral. The celebrities taking part, and we join in on the fun,” co-host Savannah Guthrie happily proclaimed at the top of Wednesday’s broadcast. Later in the 8:00 a.m. ET hour, fellow co-host Carson Daly touted the technology: “I mean, everybody seems to be talking about this. There’s a new app, it’s gone viral. Stars are getting in on the action, we’re getting in on the action. Eighty million people are on this app right now. It’s called FaceApp.”
After showing various celebrities using the app to age photos of themselves, the hosts revealed their own elderly images. Guthrie noted: “How does it go viral in one day? It’s so funny. Like one day it’s everywhere.”
Just 24 hours later, the anchor informed viewers that participating in the viral trend may have been a big mistake: “And about ‘face.’ It’s the hottest app on the planet, but what exactly is the Russian company behind it doing with your photos and private information?” Co-host Craig Melvin later worried: “While everyone is having fun seeing their older selves, what is the Russian-based company behind FaceApp actually doing with all of our photos?”
Introducing a full report on the newfound fears about the app, Guthrie admitted: “Yeah, it seems like everybody was having fun with it yesterday, we got in on it, too. But now, there are some serious privacy concerns being raised about FaceApp.” Correspondent Gadi Schwartz followed with a warning:
It’s all fun and games until somebody reads the fine print. And in the case of this latest craze, FaceApp, using their aging filters or any other filter means you’ve handed over the rights to your pictures to a Russian company that can do whatever they want with them, and that is raising a lot of questions.
Perhaps the journalists should have asked those questions before promoting and using the app.
Schwartz even cited Democrats sounding the alarm:
Lawmakers are now wondering what is this Russian-based company doing with all of your photos? On Wednesday, Senator Chuck Schumer sending this letter to the FBI and FTC, calling for an investigation into whether personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hands of the Russian government. And the Democratic National Committee warning its 2020 presidential campaigns not to use FaceApp because it was developed by Russians.