Democrats call for FaceApp to be investigated because it comes from Russia

Democrats call for FaceApp to be investigated because it comes from Russia

FaceApp — the photo editing app that uses neural networks to create dramatic photo edits — is skyrocketing to social media popularity again, thanks to a new aging filter, but Democrats aren’t on board with the fun.

The Democratic National Committee instead reportedly sent out an alert warning 2020 Democratic presidential campaigns from using the app due to concerns about the app’s Russian developers, according to a report from CNN, and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has officially asked the FBI and FTC to conduct a national security investigation into FaceApp, according to NBC News:

“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,” warned an alert from Bob Lord (the DNC’s chief security officer) that CNN obtained.

“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,” reads part of the letter from Sen. Schumer.

While it is true that FaceApp does upload pictures to its servers to apply the effects, the company is only uploading the specific pictures that are being modified, not users’ entire camera rolls. The CEO of the company behind FaceApp, Yaroslav Goncharov, also told The Verge back in 2017 (when the app had previously hit viral fame) that while the company does sometimes store pictures for a short time for performance purposes, most pictures are deleted shortly afterwards; the company also told TechCrunch that “most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date.”

Additionally, in response to recent concerns over privacy, FaceApp said that “We don’t sell or share any user data with any third parties,” and that “even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia.” (It told TechCrunch that the photo processing is done on AWS and Google Cloud servers.) Still, the company’s privacy policy doesn’t appear to be GDPR-compliant, and there’s no simple way to request that it delete its data.

It may seem like Democrats are being overly cautious here by banning FaceApp outright simply because of its Russian developers, but the group may have reason to be cautious: after getting hacked just weeks before the 2016 election, it seems that the organization is looking to be safe rather than sorry. Or maybe they just don’t want to see themselves grow old.

Update, 7:29 PM ET: Added that Sen. Schumer is calling for the FBI and FTC to investigate.

Published at Wed, 17 Jul 2019 23:29:39 +0000

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