FaceApp: US Senator calls for investigation into app over security concerns
-KOLAPO Ayobamidele, ABH Press
U.S. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has called for an investigation into FaceApp, an app which allows users to change their appearance to look older or younger. FaceApp, a Russian-based application, uses artificial intelligence to modify users’ photo, changing their hair colour, adding wrinkles or subtracting years from their faces.
The New York senator called for the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “look into the national security and privacy risks” connected to FaceApp, an app used by millions of Americans but developed by a Saint Petersburg-based company.
In a letter to the FBI, Schumer said “FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments.”
“It would be deeply troubling if the sensitive personal information of U.S. citizens was provided to a hostile foreign power actively engaged in cyber hostilities against the United States,” he added.
FaceApp was launched by Russian publisher Wireless Lab in 2017. It sparked widespread criticism in 2017 for a feature allowing users to alter their ethnicity in selfies. The company later apologized and withdrew the filter.
It is currently the most downloaded free application on Google Play, with more than 100 million users after its new aging filter attracted interest from celebrities including NBA champion Steph Curry and popular rapper Drake.
FaceApp representatives have not responded to Schumer’s letter but Yaroslav Goncharov, CEO of Wireless Lab, told The Washington Post that the app did not use the photos for any other purpose. He said that most photos are deleted from its servers within 48 hours and that Russian authorities did not have any access to user data.