That New Viral Face App Is Terrible, But It Got One Thing Right

By Alyse Stanley on at

All those celebrity look-alikes you’ve been seeing on your timeline Thursday come courtesy of the internet’s latest collective obsession: Gradient, a barely week-old photo editing app that went viral after a few choice influences promoted this new feature on Instagram. According to the Google Play store, it already has more than 1 million downloads.

The whole thing feels like déjà vu of earlier this year when everyone was using FaceApp’s AI tech to morph the age of their selfies. And while, unlike FaceApp, Gradient may not ask you to sign away the rights to your face, it still does some pretty shady shit. Particularly where your bank account’s concerned.

One thing Gradient does manage to get right, though, is in exposing Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of the failed blood-testing company Theranos, for who she really is:

I mean, have you ever seen Holmes and Mark Zuckerberg in the same room at the same time? It’s been right in front of our noses this whole time, people! The greatest con in tech history, and we never even suspected...

Back to that shady business, though. Before you can upload a picture to Gradient, the app requires you “UNLIMIT yourself” by purchasing a subscription, either £4.99 per week or £19.99 per month for weekly updates (at least, that’s what Gradient’s store description promises). Of course, if you just want to be like all the cool kids online and check out your own celebrity look-alike, there’s a free three-day trial. That is, provided you fork over your credit card information first, which will be charged for an auto-renewing subscription once that free trial’s up.

I already know what you’re thinking: “I’ll just uninstall the app before then.” Oh, you sweet, sweet summer child. Even if you don’t have Gradient downloaded, the subscription’s still tied to your Google Play or Apple ID account. Cancelling it isn’t exactly complicated—just head on over to your account settings in the app store and look under “Subscriptions” – but it’s an extra step a lot of users wouldn’t think to do until after they got that first bill. Also, be sure to cancel your subscription at least 24 hours before it ends. Otherwise, as per Gradient’s description in the app store, you’ll get charged for that next period.

And while this kind of fine print is still gross and scammy, developer Ticket to the Moon Inc. seems to have learned at least one thing from FaceApp’s scandal. The app’s not mining and selling off your face data, as Gradient’s privacy policy outlines on the very first page:

We do not collect or store any other data (including Personal Data) unless you provide it voluntarily. When provided voluntarily, we will not distribute or share your information with any third party without your consent.

However, other information like cookies and usage data is still fair game for sharing among third-party providers and the company’s affiliates. Gradient’s sudden success has also drummed up some suspicion concerning its developer, a company apparently created this year with no other titles under its belt that shares an identical address to a Chinese investment firm called Meihua Capital Partners. Neither Ticket to the Moon Inc. nor Meihua Capital Partners immediately responded to Gizmodo’s inquiries.

Featured image: Gradient