This popular photo app can exploit your selfies however it wants — how to stop it

Man stealing photo from phone
(Image credit: Getty Images/Chaliya)

Lensa AI, a photo-editing app that's climbed to the top of the Google Play Store and Apple App Store charts, is the talk of the town, allowing users to upload selfies that transform into AI-powered digital masterpieces. 

However, as Lifewire pointed out, you may want to read the fine print before using the app. Lensa has the right to exploit users' submitted images on the app — and it's not required to dole out royalties (or any other form of compensation) for utilizing users' likenesses.

Lensa AI has the right to use your likeness however it wants

Here is Lensa AI's terms of use statement that alarmed Lifewire:

"By posting or submitting on the Site or otherwise disclosing to us User Data, you give us a royalty-free, transferable, sublicensable, perpetual, non-exclusive, worldwide license to use all such User Data in whole or in part, and in any form, media or technology, whether now known or hereafter developed."

In other words, the moment you submit a selfie to Lensa AI to explore its fun features, including the ultra-popular Magic Avatar perk that transforms your selfies into stylized portraits, you're relinquishing your ownership of those images, so you can't chase after Prisma (Lena's owner) for compensation if it decides to use your pictures.

Strangely enough, a quote from Lensa AI's privacy policy contradicts the aforementioned stipulation: "We do not use photos or videos you provide when you Use Lensa for any reason other than to apply different stylized filters or effects to them." So what is the truth?

Don't let Lensa AI's current explosive success fool you — it's far from new. The app launched four years ago, focusing on AI-facilitated photo editing, but thanks to the Magic Avatar feature, the app's been blowing up across several social media landscapes. Lensa AI isn't the only photo app with such broad rights over your data, however, due to its popularity, the platform is facing heightened scrutiny. 

Apple App Store

Lensa AI (Image credit: Apple/Lensa)

Prisma is also in hot water for how the app's AI model operates on the backend. According to its privacy policy, Lensa AI uses a deep machine-learning model called Stable Diffusion, which taps into a database called LAION-5B that features a vast library of digital artworks sourced from the web. The problem is that artists can't opt out of this dataset, and according to CNN, many are not happy to see their intellectual property being used to train AI without their consent.

To sum it up, Prisma is facing criticism from several cohorts, including the users who submit their selfies to the platform as well as artists who are concerned about their artwork being used with Stable Diffusion. 

"Such apps use AI models trained on images scraped from the internet, uploaded by people who never [...] intended that their photos be processed in this way. Users of such apps then upload pictures of themselves [...] and those pictures will be used to further refine the underlying model for future users," Irina Raicu, director of internet ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, told Lifewire.

Is there a solution for privacy-concerned Lensa AI users?

If you've already been using Lensa AI and you're concerned about your data, don't worry too much. First, the app's privacy policy claims that your photos are available to Prisma anonymously (i.e., the metadata is nixed) and are automatically deleted within 24 hours after being processed.

Keep in mind, however, that some experts are skeptical. "There still exist concerns about that 24-hour window," Mark McCreary told Lifewire, a co-chair of the privacy and data security group at Fox Rothschild. "I am also concerned about what 'delete' means, and if that data is recoverable on back-ups or on a third-party storage server."

Second, according to section 5 of its terms of use page, you can revoke Lensa's right to use your data by emailing ""

As for Lensa's seemingly contradictory statements between its terms of use and privacy policy, we reached out to the company for comment. We haven't heard back yet, but we'll update this article if we do.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!