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This new app transforms your selfies into Disney-like cartoons, but how safe is it really?

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Jun 14, 2021 7:33 pm

The online world is no stranger to subtly manipulating and enhancing our everyday photos. With obviously kooky filters to downright catfishing techniques available to improve our images, there’s a new “fun” app taking people’s feed by storm: The Voilà AI App.

Its premise is simple enough, you give the app a photo of yourself and after a few moments, it delivers a number of highly realistic manipulated versions of yourself including a 3D cartoon, Renaissance painting, 2D cartoons, and a Caricature.

Celebrities have also joined in on the wave, such as Miss Universe Philippines’ regional director Shamcey Supsup and actress-singer Rachel Alejandro.

It’s a pretty cool way to pass the time and see a new version of yourself, but with photo manipulation like FaceApp getting into hot water over privacy concerns due to their unclear terms of service and alleged Russian ties, it’s vital to know just what we’re giving away just by showing our faces.

What does Voilà do exactly?

Since it’s apparently powered by AI (artificial intelligence) technology, the app takes in and processes your face’s little details and quirks and smooths them out over a templated cartoon drawing. It may look similar to you because of how it simply presses a cartoon image over your otherwise unique face.

The service is free, though you can opt out of its many lengthy pop-up advertisements by upgrading to Voila AI Artist Pro for $2.99 (P143) a week, $5.99 (P287) a month, or $29.99 (P1,430) for a year. The Pro upgrade also promises “turbo processing” to deliver your cartoonized pictures faster.

It’s also a heavy app memory-wise, as it took up over 190MB on my iPhone and took over 20 minutes to download on a standard Internet connection.

As for the results, it wasn’t unlike anything that I’ve tried out myself on Snapchat and Instagram—minor facial dysmorphia included and all—though I can appreciate its shareable appeal once seen side-by-side with your regular photo.

Where will my photos go?

In the privacy policy page of their parent company Wemage AI, Voilà AI Artist states that your photos will be deleted 24 to 48 hours after you upload it onto the app. 

However, like any other app that you give permission to, it can collect information about you and your online activities to help targeted advertisements in the future.

“When you use the free version of the App, we work with advertising partners to display advertisements within the App. These advertisements are delivered by our advertising partners and may be targeted based on your use of the App or your activity elsewhere online.”

They also extend that they use cookies to gather your data and that there’s no really sure way that these pieces of information are “100% secure.”

“The security of your data is important to us but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. 

“While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security. The Company processes your data using computers and/or other IT enabled tools.”

Will my privacy be safe?

The golden question: Is our privacy really all that private in this social media landscape? With the onslaught of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and more already mining our data, we can’t be too sure where our information goes once it’s out into the web world we're already immersed in.

With Apple recently getting flak (from Facebook) by giving iPhone users the choice to not be tracked by certain apps, it’s clear that what we do with our leisure time is a major source of profit for the tech industry. 

On the plus side, Voila stipulates that they recognize Apple’s Do Not Track feature when turned off, saying that “We honor Do Not Track signals and do not track plant cookies, or use advertising when a Do Not Track browser mechanism is in place.” Good news for iPhone users who have a choice, not so much for the others.

As of writing, there’s no evidence that Voila AI Artist has some nasty tricks up its sleeve. It’s likely similar to the rest of the apps that we use, what with their privacy warnings, pitfalls, and all. At the end of the day, it’s really up to us if we want to take that chance.