What The Tech: Cartoon Profile Pictures
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — If you’ve spent any time at all on Facebook in the last week you’ve probably seen lots of friends post new profile photos that look like cartoons. They’re using a new app called “NewProfilePic” that was released in April. The photos look pretty cool and it’s tempting for everyone else to hop on the bandwagon to post their own new profile pics. But along with those new photos, other friends are posting that the app is dangerous and shares personal information with Russia. Those warnings are pretty convincing and after warnings of Russian malware making the rounds over the past few months, the idea that an app could be fooling us Americans to share information with Putin and his government is 100% believable.
Several viewers have asked whether it’s okay to use the app. I spent most of the day researching the app and the developer behind it. Here’s what I discovered:
NewProfilePic also states that photos shared with the app are deleted within 2 days of uploading.
The warnings stem from an article in the British tabloid, The Daily Mail which quoted “cyber security experts” but offered no evidence of data being shared with Russia and no evidence of users losing money to the app without permission. Once The Daily Mail published its article, other online news organizations picked up the story and published it themselves. Much like the app, those articles have gone viral on Facebook and Twitter.
How does “NewProfilePic” make its money? Through advertisements that are displayed on the app as users create new profile pictures. Another revenue comes from subscriptions. When signing up for the app, users are encouraged to sign up for a free premium trial that renews after 2 days for $30. Users who do not cancel within that time are charged through Apple Pay or Google Pay.
From what I’ve found, the NewProfilePic app is no different than any other app that turns your photos into Disney characters, cartoons, or to find out which celebrity you look like. All of those apps gather basic information as well as biometric data when you upload a photo.
So is it safe to use? I’ll put it this way: if you’ve already uploaded a photo or signed up to use another free app in the past, this app isn’t going to collect any more of your data than you’ve already shared. It is a fun app and one, you probably don’t have to worry about unless you worry about all of the other online services you sign up for.