Lensa AI Selfies: What to Know About the Photo-Editing App Your Friends Are Using
This app is the latest social media craze, but it doesn't come without privacy concerns.
Katie TeagueWriter II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
ExpertisePersonal Finance: Social Security and taxes
You've likely seen the new filter your friends have been using on social media that transforms their photos into artwork. It's called Lensa AI, and the viral photo-editing app takes your uploaded photos and creates "magic avatars" using your face. However, the photo editor doesn't come without privacy concerns. We'll explain below.
Lensa AI is free to download on your phone, but you'll have to pay $4 to upload up to 20 photos for editing. You'll then receive 50 avatar images based on the photos you submitted.
We'll explain what you need to know about the Lensa AI photo-editing app. For a look at a similar image service, read about the NewProfilePic photo editor.
What is Lensa AI?
Lensa is a photo-editing app available on iPhone and Android with a feature that takes your uploaded selfies and turns them into avatars. The app can also be used to edit your photos, from skin retouching to blurring backgrounds, and can be used to edit videos.
The service isn't free to use, but the app has quickly topped the charts in the iPhone App Store's Photo & Video section. A monthly subscription will run you $8, and an annual subscription costs $30.
Who created Lensa?
Lensa isn't new. Actually, it's been around since 2018 and was created by Prisma Labs, which also has a self-named photo-editing app. Based in California, Prisma Labs was founded in 2016 by Alexey Moiseenkov and a team of Russian developers, including Andrey Usoltsev, Oleg Poyaganov and Ilya Frolov.
When Moiseenkov resigned as CEO of Prisma Labs and left the company in 2018, Usoltsev took the lead and became the CEO, a Prisma Labs representative told CNET.
Soon after launch, Prisma became one of the most downloaded apps in the world and won the App of the Year award from both the iOS App Store and Google Play.
What are the concerns with using Lensa?
Since the app recently gained popularity, privacy concerns have surfaced -- specifically, about how user data is being used. For instance, Lensa can use your uploaded photos to train its AI.
To train its neural network algorithms.
To provide, improve, test and monitor the effectiveness of Lensa.
To provide personalized content and information to you in relation to Lensa.
To diagnose or fix technology problems in relation to Lensa.
What Prisma says happens to your avatars
The Prisma Labs representative told CNET the following: "After the batch of Avatars is created, the shared photos are deleted permanently from our servers, as well as the copy of an individually trained model. Each time a user purchases a new pack of Avatars, the process repeats from scratch; that's why we ask you to upload photos every time you request a new package."
What to do if you've already used the app
If you've recently submitted your photos to the app and are now concerned with how your data is being used, you can take action. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request that your personal data be deleted. If your photos are being used in advertising, send an email to email@example.com to remove those permissions.
Any approved requests could take up to 90 days to process.