Appinventiv

  • Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants the FBI and FTC to investigate FaceApp.
  • Concerns include the Russian government possibly accessing user data.
  • FaceApp lets you transform faces in pictures to make them look younger or older.

As FaceApp’s popul arity exploded in the last week, so too have privacy concerns. The U.S. government is certainly taking notice, as CNN today reported Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY)’s desire to look into the app.

In a letter sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Senator Schumer said he’s concerned about the Russian government potentially accessing uploaded personal data. Senator Schumer is also worried about “how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including foreign governments.”

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) echoed Senator Schumer’s concerns, albeit in a more pointed manner:

This app allows users to perform different transformations on photos of people, such as aging the person in the picture. Unfortunately, this novelty is not without risk: FaceApp was developed by Russians.

In a follow-up with CNN, DNC Chief Security Officer Bob Lord said the DNC has “significant concerns about the app (as do other security experts) having access to your photos, or even simply uploading a selfie.” As such, Lord recommended anyone officially in the Democratic Party to delete the app.

The DNC is particularly sensitive for a good reason — its computer network was attacked back in 2015 and 2016, which resulted in a data breach. Some cybersecurity experts and the U.S. government believe the attacks were the work of Russian intelligence agencies.

What’s going on?

FaceApp seems innocuous enough — the app automatically generates realistic transformations of faces to make them smile, look younger, look older, or change gender. In recent days, some people have raised the following concerns regarding the app:

  1. FaceApp is developed by Russian company Wireless Lab.
  2. FaceApp doesn’t locally process pictures and, instead, uploads them to the cloud.
  3. The iOS app lets you select and upload a photo, even though you might deny the app access to your camera roll.

The third concern isn’t necessarily a problem since iOS allows such behavior. Even though you deny an app access to the full camera roll, you can still select individual photos if you’d like. If anything, it’s mostly on Apple to clear up any confusion regarding such a permission.

As for the other two concerns, FaceApp said to TechCrunch it doesn’t transfer images other than those you select for editing. It also said it doesn’t sell or share user data with third parties, doesn’t transfer user data to Russia, deletes images from its servers within 48 hours from when they were uploaded, and uses AWS and Google Cloud for storage and cloud processing.

According to Sensor Tower, people have downloaded FaceApp almost 13 million times since July 10.