Reface: New app lets you put your face on GIFs - but is it safe?

The Reface app has risen in popularity for both iOS and Android users

Adam Smith
Friday 07 August 2020 14:34 BST
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


A new app called Reface - previously known as Doublicat - has risen in popularity on the Apple and Android app stores by allowing users to put their face on top of popular GIFs.

The app collects information from a photo to analyse your facial features, and then places those on the heads of celebrities, movie scenes, and other content.

As of writing, it is number three on the Google Play Store and number 28 on the Apple App Store.

However, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica and other scandals, users are likely to be concerned about the safety of such applications.

The Russian-owned FaceApp, which uses facial recognition to edit your images, has a particularly controversial privacy policy which allows FaceApp a royalty-free, irrecovable, perpetual license to use your face with no compensation, according to its terms and conditions page.

Reface appears to have a more restricted approach to user privacy.

According to Reface privacy policy, the company says it “may collect the photos that you take with your camera while using our application.”

It also says it collects “facial feature data separately from your photos” in order to provide the core service of the app, but the company “does not use your photos and facial features for any reason other than to provide you with the face-swapping functionality of Reface.”

The photos are retained by Reface for 24 hours after the editing session, before they are deleted. The facial feature data is “stored on the Reface server for a limited period of 30 calendar days after your last use of the Reface application”.

“In no way will Reface use your Uploaded Content for face recognition, as Reface does not introduce the face recognition technologies or other technical means for processing of biometric data for the unique identification or authentication of a user,” the policy also states.

Reface is also adamant that the service it offers does not use facial recognition, saying that it “collect[s] the facial feature data that is not biometric data.”

This is seemingly because, while other apps require a three-dimensional model of the face, Reface only uses a selfie photo.

The technology powering the app is “Reface.AI”, which places customer faces into adverts. “Make your customers the faces of your campaign in both traditional and digital ads,” its website reads.

While the Reface does make money off in-app advertising, it also offers a premium tier. Reface told The Independent that advertising revenue is less than 10 percent of all revenue.

This lets users upload their own GIFs, choose faces from their gallery, and provides results without adverts or watermarks. Currently, Reface is offering that service for under £5 per month or £25 per year.

"We do not use people's faces for sorting ads. Data protection is a social responsibility for Reface AI. We do not use data for any other purposes except for face-swapping," a spokesperson said, "and we do not provide data to the 3rd party [sic]".

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