Voilà – balance app fun with cyber awareness

Are your friends looking a little different lately?
If you’ve been on social media recently, you’ve likely seen new, modified versions of a few friends’ faces. No, people haven’t been heading for plastic surgery en masse; photo manipulation app Voilà has gone viral. You can use technology to create cartoon-like and other variations to photos of your face.
Technology provides multiple opportunities for fun as well as business and education, yet I’m cautious when it comes to certain seemingly innocuous links and games.
You may have seen and tapped in to social media posts with “opportunities” to see what you’ll look like at 60 (many among us already know!), which well known person you purportedly resemble, your personal characteristics, or some other factoid about yourself.
On the surface, many of these games are somewhat like cotton candy – a bit of fluff that seems like fun, yet we don’t really need it. In fact, we may later regret having indulged.
Yesterday, I checked out the Voilà app that’s responsible for many of the cartoon-like faces people have been sharing on social media over recent weeks.

On the surface, an online game can be somewhat like cotton candy – a bit of fluff that seems like fun, yet we don’t need it, and we may later regret having indulged
In downloading the app, I read the fine print before temporarily using its free version to produce the image you see atop your screen. I made choices that would theoretically limit the app’s access to my data. Rather than granting the app access to my camera roll, I restricted its access to four photos.
While it may not happen with this app, we want to mindful that, in these days of facial recognition, providing access to one’s camera roll has potential to represent sharing other individuals’ images as well as our own.
An app gone viral
Sure, it’s fun. Plenty of people feel that way about this app. In fact, reports tell us that downloads of the app went from just shy of 300,000 in April 2021 to almost eight million in June 2021. It’s particularly popular in Brazil and the US.
in these days of facial recognition, providing access to one’s camera roll has potential to represent sharing other individuals’ images as well as our own
There’s a statement about configuration of “Google Cloud Platform to delete photographs, and the information associated with the photographs within 24-48 hours after the photograph was last used the App. This allows you to revisit the image for additional modifications during that time.” Yet, as a growing number of sources are cautioning people, this has not been publicly verified.
The importance of being cyber aware
I’m writing this exactly a week after publishing another article on why all of us need to become increasingly aware of our cybersecurity and personal data practices. If you’ve not already read it, you can find the article by clicking here
I’ve delivered common sense cybersecurity training and messages to assistants in different countries – at conferences, in corporate offices and via webinar. Some of you have registered for tomorrow’s June 17th webinar, Cybersecurity: What We Need to Know in 2021 – Protecting Personal and Business Data
I’d not intended to write about cybersecurity and personal data so soon after last week’s article, and yet I felt compelled to do so. 
Why I deleted the app
Those who know me know I love photography and imagery. This app is fun, and this article isn’t intended to pick on a product. Given the extent to which I see readers and friends tapping in to this one, I’m writing in order to raise awareness. The better informed we are, the better our choices.
I deleted the app from my phone after providing access to four images and playing with them. Why? Well, like other products, the app uses individuals’ data for targeted advertising. Also like some other products, this app seeks permission to transfer and store your images. Meta data (think geotags) from photos  “may be associated with your photographs by default”. 
Always read the fine print before sharing images or personal data
What else? “This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol (e,g, IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.” 
When you access “Service” with a mobile device, the fine print tells us, “… this Usage Data may include information such as the type of mobile device you use, your mobile device unique ID, the IP address of your mobile device, your mobile operating system, the type of mobile internet browser you use, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.” Data can be outsourced. 
If you use the app from jurisdictions other than the US and choose to provide information to the app,  such data “… may be transferred to – and maintained on – computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ from those of your jurisdiction.” WEIMAGINE.AI, the company behind the app, also publishes information on privacy protection associated with the European Union’s (EU’s) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation.
There’s more, yet you get the idea. Nor is this app alone in such practices; check the fine print and be aware that all businesses, just like individuals, are susceptible to cyber breaches. As WEMAGINE.AI’s privacy policy statement articulates, “The security of your data is important to us but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.” 
Do your own research with apps, links and downloads
We’re seeing the emergence of articles identifying security risks with this app and other apps. McAfee’s principle engineer and head of Advanced Threat Research, Steve Povolny, is quoted as saying that, with apps such as this one, people need to keep privacy concerns in mind.
If you want to play it safe, search trusted online sources for information about this and other apps, and make informed choices.

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