Lensa AI, Selfy App: Privacy Risk Explained

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Lensa AI, Selfy App: Privacy Risk Explained

2010 doesn’t feel that long ago…but in internet years, that’s a millennium ago. So much so, that in late 2010, Instagram launched onto the scene, changing how we view the world. 

You know, filters on your food pictures, selfies and crafting photographic masterpieces, all with the tap of your smartphone. 

Isn’t that how smashed avo became a thing? 

And a rallying call for out-of-touch millennials who were denied purchasing their first home (or so the media would have us believe)?

Technology has evolved to where your friends and family post incredible CGI images across Instagram, TikTok and Facebook.

With a simple tap and wipe, you can create a Hollywood version of yourself as a character in the next hit animated movie. Naturally, it’s not real but an imagined version of yourself with perfect hair, complexion and facial features. 

One app that is driving this evolution is Lensa AI. An app that allows you to upload around ten photos that can create your ideal selfie. Then, it feeds the images into its own AI algorithm to generate what it thinks is a stunning, fantasy version of you. 

Now this magic isn’t exactly free. However, you can access the app for free for one week to get a feel for how it works. But to take full advantage of Lensa AI, you must pay. After your free one-week trial, you will be charged $53.99 annually. 

Like many trendy apps over the last decade, it all feels like harmless fun —some light entertainment from the endless scroll on social media. And the allure for many users is the ability to create a unique, visually appealing profile photo.

But at what cost? Is Lensa AI selling you an app to make a new profile pic? Or is there a more sinister side to these apps?

What Lensa AI knows about you

With laws like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and proposed new Australian legislation around privacy, developers need to advise you on how they obtain, handle and store your data. 

Alarmingly, when you review the information provided by Lensa AI developers on the Apple App Store, you need to know quite a few things. 

It’s tracking you

After downloading Lensa AI, it can track your phone activity. The App Store outlines that Lensa AI may use purchases and unique identifiers to follow you. Worryingly, this doesn’t mean only tracking you while in Lensa AI. It also tracks you across other websites and apps owned by different companies.

It’s collecting data about you.

Lensa AI searches your smartphone and other devices using different data points. By downloading it, you’re consenting to Lensa AI to do this. Some of the tracking links to you personally (such as linked to your name, IP address, or mobile number). For example, data collected and related to you can include user content (such as the photos you upload and share with the app).

However, Lensa AI also collects a range of other data, but not with your name or another identifier. This data can include purchases you make on third-party websites or apps; data usage on those apps; diagnostics from your device; and identities (this isn’t specified but could likely mean things like your home city or gender). 

You no longer own your photos.

A word of caution about sharing your data with companies like Lensa AI: history has shown that many large tech companies, like Meta, have acted irresponsibly with user data in the past. In some ways, they are deliberately vague in their terms and conditions, allowing the option to act in their interest, not their users. 

For example, looking through the Lensa AI terms of use, you would see that users agree to the following, “…solely to operate or improve Lensa, you grant us a time-limited, revocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, distribute, create derivative works of your User Content, without any additional compensation to you…”

The sole purpose of “operating” Lensa is, at best open for interpretation. Lensa could theoretically increase revenue by using your images to support its operations. Importantly, it says they can modify and distribute your user content…without paying you.

What can you do to protect your data privacy? 

Use caution

Whilst jumping on the latest fad or trend can be tempting, often with new technology, it’s best to wait a while. Let the dust settle and see what commentators, traditional media, and others say about this new app. 

Carefully read the terms and conditions.

Look, we all do it. Click accept when a website or app asks to read the terms and conditions. But you must read the fine print often to avoid giving away your data privacy rights. For many, it’s a risk worth taking, but if you can restrain yourself and review the usual terms and conditions, you may reconsider that risk in downloading the app. 

Enable data restriction in the app. 

If you cannot resist using Lensa AI, take some time to make the app as secure as possible, including restricting its data collection features; or using your smartphone’s privacy and security settings to turn off data sharing. 

Lensa AI allows you to delete your data from its servers as outlined in its privacy policy. You can email [email protected] for any questions and concerns.

Does your Melbourne business need a privacy update?

For many employees, using Lensa AI may appear innocent, harmless fun. But the rising use of different apps across multiple devices in your business can expose you to lurking cyber threats. So schedule a call today to help you review your privacy settings.

About the author

Yener is the founder and Managing Director of Intuitive IT. Prior to running his own business Yener worked for a number of corporate organisations where he gained invaluable experience and skills, as well as an understanding of how IT can complement and improve business outcomes.