Reface is one of the most popular smartphone apps right now, but as fun as the app is to use, is Reface safe? Launched in February 2020, Reface is a fascinating application. After taking a selfie or uploading a photo of yourself, Reface analyzes your face, throws advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence at it, and then maps your face onto funny pictures, videos, and GIFs. If you’ve ever wanted to turn yourself into Emma Watson, The Rock, Dr. Evil, or anyone else, Reface lets you do it.

Whenever an app goes viral like Reface, though, it almost immediately raises privacy concerns. Digital privacy has been an issue ever since the dawn of the internet. However, it’s a point that’s become more hotly debated in recent years. As more and more of people’s lives take place online, there’s greater concern about how some companies, apps, and websites, are using all that data. Some sites are safe, others are bad actors, and trying to pick them apart from each other isn’t always easy.

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That brings us to Reface. While it’s easy to spend hours messing with all of the different ways to ‘reface’ yourself in the app, is it actually safe to use Reface in the first place? The best way to start answering this question is by understanding who’s behind Reface. Per the company’s website, it describes itself as “an AI/ML startup shifting from a face-swapping app to a social platform for personalized content creation and unlimited self-expression of the future.” Reface was started by three developers and friends from Kyiv, Ukraine. After messing around with machine learning models and artificial intelligence, they got the idea to create “a super fast and accurate face swap technology.” Since its launch, Reface secured investments from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and big-name celebrity use from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Miley Cyrus.

Other Privacy Things To Know About Reface

Reface app

Because of the nature of what Reface is doing, the app inherently has to collect a lot of data. As explained in Reface’s Privacy Policy, the company collects biometric data from photos and videos of your face that you upload to the app. In doing so, Reface collects “your facial geometry, and recordings of your voice, including your voice print.” Reface also collects users’ names, email addresses, and other profile information — but only when users provide that to Reface when creating their account. As for how that information is used, Reface says it’s used “for a variety of business purposes.” Some examples include measuring users’ engagement with the app, debugging issues/glitches, and — of course — marketing and advertising. Similar to most other apps, Reface says it may use “interest-based or personalized advertising, including through cross-device tracking.”

What is interesting is how Reface has changed some of its Privacy Policy terms. Per its Privacy Policy from July 2020, Reface clearly stated that “In no way will Reface use your photos and facial features for face recognition.” In the most recent version amended in October 2021, however, there’s no mention of face recognition practices at all. Reface also changed the way it stores users’ biometric data. The July 2020 Privacy Policy said users’ facial data was stored on Reface servers “for a limited period of 30 calendar days after your last use of the Reface application.” According to the most recent version, Reface now says it “may store biometric data for three years.”

For what it’s worth, a Reface spokesperson spoke to The Independent in August 2020 and said, “Data protection is a social responsibility for Reface AI. We do not use data for any other purposes except for face-swapping.” There’s no reason not to believe that still isn’t the case here in 2022, but does that mean Reface is safe to use? That all depends on what you’re comfortable with. If you’re trying to keep your data as protected as possible and not unnecessarily give it away, Reface probably isn’t a good fit. There’s no reason to think Reface is doing anything malicious, but having an app scan your face and then keep that data for multiple years probably doesn’t sit well with some people. Reface is safe so long as you’re aware of and comfortable with how it collects and uses your information. Use Reface if you don’t have a problem with its terms, ignore the app if it sounds too invasive, and that’s all there is to it.