PH web watchdog to look into FaceApp’s privacy policy

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 20 2019 06:02 PM

MANILA—The National Privacy Commission (NPC) would "look at the terms and conditions" of a popular FaceApp, a face-editing mobile application that has raised cybersecurity and privacy concerns worldwide.

A US senator recently urged American authorities to probe the Russian-developed technology after analysts found that it requires users' "full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data," which could pose "national security and privacy risks."

"We take cognizance of the analysis of what came out and we will look at these terms and conditions too if it really conforms to the requirements of our law," NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro told ABS-CBN News.

But Liboro clarified that the government's privacy watchdog would not censor applications that make facial scans shareable on the internet.

"Technology, the march towards the future, is really data driven," he said. "We are not the gatekeepers of what can or cannot be done because privacy is really about accountability."

The commission would have to check if personal data and information obtained from users were "freely given" through "specific and informed consent."

"Your right to ask the question on what do you have about me, any controller should be able to answer that," Liboro said.

"If they don't, that's the time you can elevate this to the commission [through a formal complaint]."

FaceApp went viral in the Philippines earlier this week after several international and local celebrities joined thousands of netizens in generating an older version of their faces through the artificial intelligence-powered app.

The NPC has yet to receive complaints against FaceApp, but users should take time to read the fine print of an app's privacy policy, especially if personal information is required, Liboro said.

Applications or websites asking for personal details should ask for users' consent before obtaining information, and clearly specify how long they intend to keep the data and where it will be shared, he said.

"Always, we should not surrender the control of personal data to these entities," he said. "Opting out should also be as easy as opting in."