Posts tagged with "selfie"

Russian roulette: FaceApp has gone viral, but is it a new case of Russkie (and risky) skullduggery?

July 19, 2019

Maybe cheese and wine get better with age, but people? Not so much. The human face and body tend to sag, wrinkle, and discolor as the years go on—no matter how good the bone structure.

So why is everyone on social media so excited about a new smartphone app that allows users to upload selfies and see their future faces, replete with jowls and graying hair?

Celebrities such as Drake, LeBron James, and the Jonas Brothers all have used the instant aging app, much to fans’ delight.

In fact, according to a report by The Washington Post, FaceApp has altered photos for more than 80 million users since its 2017 release; and allows smartphone users to change a facial photo’s age, gender, or hairstyle—often with convincing results. The app uses artificial-intelligence software to automatically alter the photos in seconds, much like similar features offered by Instagram and Snapchat.

But there is one major catch, we are just finding out: On July 17, the  Democratic National Committee warned presidential campaigns against using the viral face-transforming FaceApp, citing the software’s Russian developers. It urged campaign staff to “delete the app immediately.”

 “This novelty is not without risk: FaceApp was developed by Russians,” DNC Security Chief Bob Lord wrote in the alert to campaigns, which was first reported by CNN. “It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks.

Founder and CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told The Washington Post that FaceApp’s research-and-development team is based in Russia but that no user data is transferred into the country, and “most images” are deleted from company servers within 48 hours.

However, the app’s terms of service say users grant the company a “perpetual, irrevocable . . . [and] worldwide” license to use a user’s photos, name or likeness in practically any way it sees fit, the Post points out.

If a user deletes content from the app, FaceApp can still store and use it, the terms say. FaceApp also says it can’t guarantee that users’ data or information is secure and that the company can share user information with other companies and third-party advertisers, which aren’t disclosed in the privacy terms.

Goncharov said that users who want to remove their data from FaceApp can make the request through the app by clicking “Settings,” then “Support,” then “Report a bug” with “privacy” in the subject line. “Our support team is currently overloaded, but these requests have our priority,” a company statement read.

FaceApp’s terms of service say it can share information with a government agency if a subpoena, court order or search warrant is issued and the company has “a good faith belief that the law requires” it to do so. This information can also be shared with any country that FaceApp maintains facilities in, including Russia.

According to the Post, people who use the app also “consent to the processing, transfer and storage of information about you in and to the United States and other countries, where you may not have the same rights and protections as you do under local law.”

Kate O’Neill, a tech consultant, told the news outlet that FaceApp’s privacy terms are still murky, despite the company’s clarification. “People should be savvy about when apps and memes and games are encouraging everyone to engage in the same way,” she said. “It puts the data in a vulnerable state that becomes something that can train facial recognition and other kinds of systems that may not be intended the way people are using it.”

Research contact: @washingtonpost

A Florida spa owner and ‘investment adviser’ has been selling access to the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago

March 12, 2019

Mother Jones published a skanky scoop on March 9 involving the president, his family—and a conniving Florida-based entrepreneur who set up a pay-to-play scheme that enabled Chinese executives to access the Trumps at Mar-a-Lago.

The entrepreneur, 45-year-old Li Yang, first came to light when law enforcement raided her chain of spas and massage parlors in South Florida—and busted New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft (among other customers) in late February for soliciting prostitution at one of the facilities.

She next made the news when the Miami Herald reported on March 8 that earlier in February, she had attended a Super Bowl viewing party at Donald Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club, Mar-a-Lago, and had snapped a selfie with the president during the event.

Although Yang no longer owns the spa that Kraft—a longtime Trump associate and pal—allegedly visited, the newspaper noted that other massage parlors her family runs have “gained a reputation for offering sexual services (best known as ‘happy endings’ in the massage business).”

What’s more, Yang runs an investment business through which, Mother Jones has documented, she has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. A website for the business—which features numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago—suggests she had some success in doing so.

Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace,” Mother Jones reports.

But the firm notes that its services also attract clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them with “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce, and other political figures.”

The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.” (Mother Jones notes: The same day the Herald story about Yang broke, the website stopped functioning.)

The short bio of Yang on the website, identifying her as the founder and CEO of GY US Investments, shows her in a photo with Trump bearing his signature. It says she has been “settled in the United States for more than 20 years” and is a member of the “Presidential Fundraising Committee.”

According to the Herald, Yang is a registered Republican, and since 2017 she and her relatives have donated more than $42,000 to a Trump political action committee and more than $16,000 to Trump’s campaign.

Her Facebook page, which was taken offline on March 8, was loaded with photos of her posing with GOP notables, Mother Jones reports—among them, Donald Trump Jr., Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

A flier posted on GY US Investments’ website publicized an upcoming event at Mar-A-Lago featuring the president’s sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau.

Yang and her business partners listed on the GY US Investments’ website could not be reached for comment by Mother Jones.

Research contact: @DavidCornDC

Brits are wearing clothes once, for the ‘hashtag moment,’ before returning them

August 14, 2018

Buying clothes for a special event, tucking in the tags—and then returning them to the store the next day (hopefully, with no noticeable stains or stench)—is a notorious strategy of stingy shoppers. But today, people are doing it just for the social media status.

Indeed, based on findings of a recent poll conducted by payments company Barclaycard, and posted on Quartz, nearly 9% of UK shoppers admit to buying clothing only to take a photo on social media. After the outfit of the day makes it online, they return it to the retailer.

The survey of 2,002 adults showed that shoppers aged 35-44 are the most likely to do this, and, surprisingly enough. men outnumbered women. The study found that it is men who are more  socially self-conscious  than women – with 12%t posting a clothing item on social media and then returning it to an online retailer, compared to only 7% of women

According to Barclaycard, the introduction of “try before you buy” policies at online retailers—where people pay for clothing they ordered online after they’ve tried it on at home—could be contributing to this trend.

One major reason? The rise of social media means that everyone, not just celebrities, is expected to maintain and curate a personal brand. Since we’re constantly documenting our lives and posting them online for public comment, nobody wants to get caught in the same outfit twice.

There are brands that tailor specifically to the Instagram shopper, such as Fashion Nova. “These are clothes made for social media: meant to be worn once, maybe twice, photographed, and discarded,” Allison P. Davis wrote in her deep-dive about the company in New York Magazine’s “The Cut.” Another favorite of the Instagram age is Rent the Runway, which embraces the return philosophy and allows customers to rent designer clothing for a fee.

Some, however, are moving in the opposite direction. The concept of the “capsule wardrobe”—which calls for investing in a small number of high-quality pieces instead of lots of trendy, discardable clothes—also is making a comeback according to a recent report by The Washington Post.

And then there’s British fashion icon Kate Middleton  the Duchess of Cambridge, whose every outfit sells out in seconds, but who frequently wears the same outfit twice (as did former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, another trendsetter).

Research contact: Rebecca.butler@barclaycard.co.uk

Tom Arnold says he’s teaming up with Michael Cohen to ‘take Trump down’

June 25, 2018

Comedian Tom Arnold said on June 22 that he and President Trump’s former longtime personal lawyer are teaming up to “take down” the president, according to a report by The Hill.

After a meeting with Cohen—who has said in the press that he will testify, if subpoenaed by the Russia probe—Arnold tweeted a selfie of both men together with the caption “I Love New York,” which Cohen retweeted without comment.

Arnold then told NBC News that he met with Cohen as part of a show he is working on for the HBO series Vice, in which he searches for incriminating videos of the president.

“This dude has all the tapes — this dude has everything,” Arnold told NBC News, as reported by The Hill. “I say to Michael, ‘Guess what? We’re taking Trump down together,’ and he’s so tired he’s like, ‘OK.’ “

The idea for the Vice program followed the leak of the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape during the 2016 presidential race, in which Trump can be heard bragging about grabbing women “by the p—-.” The show will feature Arnold’s hunt for other unflattering video and audio recordings of the president.

“We’ve been on the other side of the table and now we’re on the same side,” Arnold told NBC News. “It’s on! I hope [Trump] sees the picture of me and Michael Cohen and it haunts his dreams.”

Arnold declined to reveal to NBC News if Cohen was planning to give him any material for “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes.”

Trump distanced himself from Cohen earlier this month, saying that the man who has been known as the POTUS’ personal lawyer—and had the business cards to prove it—is no longer his lawyer and that he had not spoken to him in “a long time”—a message that the Cohen could not have been happy to hear. Cohen also has complained that the president is not paying his legal fees.

However, a day after Arnold said the two would take down Trump together, Cohen said he had not agreed to that.

Most Americans continue to believe that the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election is a serious matter that should be investigated, but the constant criticism by President Donald Trump of Special Counsel Robert Mueller is taking its toll, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS and released on June 22.The number of Americans who approve of how Mueller is handling the investigation has dropped from 48% in March to 44% in May to just 41% now, the lowest it has been in CNN’s polling.

Research contact: 1-494-840-4300 (www.ssrs.com)