A new phone app is making waves on social media as people use it to recreate their selfies into caricatures of themselves.
But according to a rising number of claims, the NewProfilePic app is bad news.
“GUYS! If you’ve downloaded the new app fad going around making your pictures into characters DELETE IT!” one Facebook post warned. “You’re giving it permission to have access to your cards, any banking information on your phone, contacts, etc. It’s from a Russian based company and there are already reports of them wiping out bank accounts.”
That post, along with others, quickly spread on social media, and the Daily Mail also reported on the claim.
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
But those rumors don’t paint the right picture — the app isn’t sending your information to Russia. Here’s how you can tell.
Who owns the app, and how does it work?
NewProfilePic was created by a mobile development group called Informe Laboratories, Inc., and copyrighted by Linerock Investments LTD, said Kristina Lunina, spokesperson for Linerock Investments. The app is available on Google Play and the App Store. We looked at the app’s permissions in both stores — neither of them state that the app accesses people’s banking or contact information.
“We collect your name, email address, user name, social network information and other information you provide when you register, set up an account, contact us by e-mail or use our services,” Linerock Investment Ltd. states. “We may also obtain information from other companies and combine that with the information we collect on the Services.”
We tested and explored NewProfilePic for ourselves. Here’s how it works: Once a user downloads and opens the app, it first asks if they’d like to try a three-day trial for its pro version, which costs $29.99. Users can bypass that and head to the app’s Home Screen, which includes a Choose Photo button.
The app then asks for permission to access photos and media on the device. People can select which photo they want to turn into a cartoon, and the app will immediately generate that image into a caricature.
PolitiFact staff writers Yacob Reyes, Samantha Putterman and Gabrielle Settles
Lunina said the app’s permissions aren’t much different from those on Instagram or TikTok. We found that’s true, except for a key difference — TikTok and Instagram both ask for permission to access people’s contact lists in order to connect users with their friends on the apps.
Does NewProfilePic send user’s information to Russia?
In a word, no. Lunina explained that all user photos are hosted and processed on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure servers, which are located in the United States.
The app’s developers do have some ties to Russia, but not as extensive as some have claimed. Linerock’s headquarters are based in the British Virgin Islands, and they have development offices in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Snopes reported that the company’s domain was formerly registered in Moscow, but now, it’s registered in Florida.
Lunina said the domain address in Moscow is the former address of Victor Sazhin, the founder of Linerock. “He does not live in the Russian Federation now,” she wrote in an email to PolitiFact. “Currently the address was changed in order to avoid any confusion.”
Sazhin wrote in an Instagram post of his own Russian and Ukrainian heritage, noting that the company’s team is made up of people from both countries.
“We understand that due to the current events in Ukraine, any connection to Russia could raise suspicions,” Lunina said. “We did not and do not plan to have any affiliation with any governmental organizations of any country.”
Social media posts claim the NewProfilePic app accesses people’s banking information and contact lists and sends them to Russia.
The app does not ask for that information. It asks for access to the user’s camera, photos and media. A spokesperson for one of the app’s developers said users’ images are stored on servers located in the United States, not Russia.
The app’s domain was formerly registered in Moscow because the founder once lived there. However, he has since moved, and the app’s domain address has changed.
We rate this claim False.
PolitiFact researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this fact check.