Apps: A selfie app from China goes viral
America has discovered Meitu, said Lisa Eadicicco in Time.com. Even if you’ve never heard of the Chinese photo-editing app, “chances are you’ve seen its work on Instagram or Facebook.” Meitu’s glossy, gaudy filters can make any old selfie look like “it could have been ripped from an anime cartoon,” which m ay explain why your friends’ eyes are looking so much bigger these days. The app has been available for years in China and other Asian countries, where it’s wildly popular with tens of millions of users. But it’s only just catching on in the U.S., rocketing last week into the top 100 free iPhone apps seemingly overnight, beating out more-established apps like Yelp and SoundCloud.
Meitu goes way beyond the flattering filters available on Instagram and Snapchat, said Amie Tsang and Emily Feng in The New York Times. “Cheeks can be stretched and pinched. Chins can be shaved off. Eyes can be contoured.” The result is a window into female beauty standards that have become common in countries like China, South Korea, and Japan: “pale skin, elfin features, skinny limbs, eyes wide and guileless as a baby seal’s.” Meitu’s parent company said more than half of the photos circulated on Chinese social media in June were filtered using its app. Some users even turn to Meitu to touch up their résumés, since in China’s emerging service sector, job postings for women often set height or appearance requirements. Now that it’s everywhere, “the question is whether the world wants Meitu’s idea of beauty.”
Stay far, far away from Meitu, said Jeff John Roberts in Fortune. Sure, it may be fun to make yourself look airbrushed and beautiful, but you have to “send a boatload of your personal information to China” in the process. Many photo-editing apps access data like your location or picture roll, but Meitu taps everything from information about your phone calls to your internet and Wi-Fi activity. “One must sacrifice for beauty, but this is going too far.”
“Responsible apps ask for the fewest number of ‘permissions’ possible so they don’t have access to anything they don’t absolutely need,” said Lily Hay Newman in Wired.com. Meitu certainly overreaches, but it’s hardly alone in this regard. Pokémon Go had to rush out an embarrassing update not long after it launched because its iOS app demanded almost unfettered access to users’ Google accounts. If you’re worried about what Meitu can see, you can use your mobile device’s settings to control what each app has access to. “It’s no fun letting a meme pass you up because you’re worried about privacy, but it’s even worse to have your personal data taken for who knows what without you realizing it.”