US Senator Schumer asks FBI, FTC to probe Russia’s FaceApp over security concerns

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FaceApp's Data Privacy

FaceApp, which was developed by Wireless Lab, a company based in St. Petersburg, says on its website that it has over 80 million active users. Its CEO, Yaroslav Goncharov, used to be an executive at Yandex, widely known as “Russia’s Google.”

US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer approached the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a national security and privacy investigation into FaceApp, a face-editing photo app developed in Russia, in a letter sent on Wednesday.

The viral smartphone application, which has seen a new surge of popularity due to a filter that ages photos of users’ faces, requires “full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data,” which could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens,” Schumer said in his letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joe Simons.

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The Democratic National Committee also conveyed a caution to the party’s 2020 presidential competitors on Wednesday cautioning them against utilizing the application, indicating its Russian provenance.

In the email, seen by Reuters and first announced by CNN, DNC security boss Bob Lord additionally encouraged Democratic presidential crusades to erase the application promptly in the event that they or their staff had effectively utilized it.

There is no proof that FaceApp gives user information to the Russian government.

Democrats host invested heavily in bolstering party cyber defenses after U.S. intelligence agencies determined that Russia used hacking as part of an effort to boost support for President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Russia has repeatedly denied those claims.

FaceApp, which was created by Wireless Lab, an organization situated in St. Petersburg, says on its site that it has more than 80 million dynamic clients. Its CEO, Yaroslav Goncharov, used to be an official at Yandex, broadly known as “Russia’s Google.”

The app, which was launched in 2017, made headlines in 2018 when it removed its ‘ethnicity filters’ after users condemned them as racist.

More recently, it has faced scrutiny from the public over issues such as not clearly communicating that the app uploads images to the cloud rather than processing them locally on a user’s device.

It isn’t clear how the artificial intelligence application holds the information of clients or how clients may guarantee the cancellation of their information after usage, Schumer said in the letter.

Schumer said the photograph editing application’s area in Russia brings up issues about how FaceApp lets third parties, including remote governments, approach the information of American natives. Peruse the letter: https://tmsnrt.rs/2NWuvJh

In a statement cited by media outlets, FaceApp has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties.

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“99% of clients don’t sign in; in this way, we don’t approach any information that could identify a person,” the company said in a statement cited by TechCrunch https://tcrn.ch/2xTXN0m, adding that most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours of the upload date.

 

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While the organization’s research and development team are located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia, according to the statement.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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