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Privacy concerns rise over popular AI photo apps – study
Wed, 13th Dec 2023

AI Photo apps have surged in popularity in recent years, fuelled by the rise of TikTok. However, privacy concerns about these apps continue to grow. According to a new study by mobile phone retailer, Fonehouse, over a third of these AI photo apps utilise your photo data to train their AI tools, and 75% require users to sign over rights to use personal photos for promotional activities.

The study analysed 20 of the most popular AI photo apps, revealing how intrusive they are and what happens to your data. Appalling enough, 25% store facial data after image creation and 20% do not allow users to delete their data. The popular editing app, Facetune, has been named among the worst for privacy intrusion, according to the study.

The apps' overall data collection was assessed, with Photoleap being the most invasive, collecting data from eight of the 14 personal data categories (57%). This includes contact info, user content, identifiers, diagnostics, usage data, purchases, location and other data. Picsart, Facetune and Videoleap followed, collecting data from seven categories (50%).

An examination of the apps' security protocols revealed that one in five apps do not encrypt data while in transit. Furthermore, while 65% of analysed apps allow requests for data deletion, 20% do not permit such requests, and 15% do not specify their data deletion policies.

The study also uncovered how these apps use the data they collect. Over a third declared they use user data to train their AI tools, with just 5% clearly stating they do not. Meanwhile, 60% did not specify their stance regarding this issue.

Once images or avatars are created, 60% of apps delete the facial data immediately and do not store it on their servers. However, one in every four apps (25%) store your data after creation, while 15% do not specify their policy on this matter. Depending on the app, this data can be stored for varying durations, from no longer than seven days to up to three years after an account becomes inactive.

Lastly, an alarming discovery was that 75% of AI photo apps require users to sign over rights to personal images, to be used for promotional purposes. Some apps even state that by accepting their terms and conditions, users are permanently granting them permission to use private photos in this manner.

This comprehensive study by Fonehouse provides a cautionary tale for users of AI photo apps, highlighting the importance of understanding data privacy policies before signing up for any online service.