Oh, the hours of fun we’ve had playing with Meitu in the office this week.
Just in case you don’t know yet, Meitu is a ‘beauty app’ that transforms your selfie, anime-style.
It makes your skin flawless, your eyes huge, re-shapes your face and generally cartoon-fies you beyond all recognition (my personal favourite is the Mermaid filter - see left photo above).
The app has been around in China for years - it has a reported 450 million users each month and over 6 billion photo uploads - but, this week it’s suddenly all anyone can talk about in the US and UK. It’s had around 100,000 downloads in the US alone over the last seven days.
It’s not hard to see why; our fashion and celebrity director, Josh Newis-Smith, Whatsapped our InStyle group chat this week with, ‘In such a great mood now I’ve got that selfie.’ It really is mood-boosting good.
Getting the selfie of your life comes at a price...
The photo filter app requests an unnerving amount of permissions and people have been raising question's about the app's security.
Sure, it has access to your camera and your photos. We’re ok with that. That’s normal. But did you know it can access you GPS location, network carrier, wifi connection data, your contacts, SIM card info? It can basically clone your phone.
We immediately panicked and so asked a security expert (who asked to stay anonymous) what he thought. He explained that the controversy around this app is basically because Meitu is asking for far more access than it needs.
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Google has best practice guidelines for app developers to ensure users have control of what information is being tracked, but Meitu isn’t following these guidelines.
‘The problem is by not following these guidelines, people can’t opt out, ‘our expert said. ‘Users don’t have control of what is being monitored.’
His advice? ’If you download Meitu now, just know that they’ll forever have a permanent record linked to your phone and you can’t change it.’
He added: ‘They’re asking for an enormous amount of control, which is odd. What's also odd is that it's asking for stuff it really doesn’t need. For example, why does a cute photo app need that to know your GPS location?
'It’s harvesting an enormous amount of data.’
He added that we shouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions, though. ‘It could be a cock-up on the part of one developer or it could be a deliberate strategy. The problem is, generally, you don't get anything for free because marketing data has enormous value.'
The sinister side of selfies, eh?