US Senator asks to investigate FaceApp as it is ‘stealing user data’

FaceApp denies all allegations, says there are no privacy concerns.

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FaceApp
FaceApp: Have you tried the viral old age filter yet?

 

  • The viral FaceApp has been in the news over privacy concerns. 

  • The US senator asks FBI to investigate it as it is developed by Russians. 

  • FaceApp denies all allegations, says it is as safe as other smartphone apps. 

Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader in the US, has called for the FBI to investigate into the FaceApp, saying that the Russian operated application could lead to privacy risks and national security of millions of US citizens.

The FaceApp has been available on IOS and Android since 2017 but recently, it has gained a lot of hype as celebrities and people from all around the world are using the photographs to make themselves look 20 years older. However, it has given birth to privacy concerns as citizens in America are uploading photographs and sharing data from their devices to an application that is operated by a company that is Russian based.

FaceApp – The AI Face Editor:

FaceApp

The editing of the image by the FaceApp, that refers to itself as an ‘’AI Face Editor’’, is done on the company’s servers rather than on the user’s devices. The app does warn the user beforehand that the photo selected for editing will be uploaded to their servers for ‘image processing and face transformation’.

The warning wasn’t included in the app until a recent update that came this week. But, the app did warn users about uploading the photo in its terms of uses, which says that by agreeing to the terms and conditions, the users  “grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use” their data.

In a letter to the FBI and Federal Trade Commission, Senator Schumer stated that,

‘’FaceApp uses artificial intelligence to alter a user’s photos to look younger or older or possess a different gender. However, in order to operate the application, users must provide the company full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data.

According to its privacy policy, users grant FaceApp license to use or publish content shared with the application, including their username or even their real name, without notifying them or providing compensation. In particular, FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of US citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments…”

 

Given the growing popularity of FaceApp and these national security and privacy concerns, I ask that the FBI assess whether the personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hands of the Russian government or entities with ties to the Russian government. If so, I would urge that steps be immediately taken by the FBI to mitigate the risk presented by the aggregation of this data’’

Further on in the letter, Schumer asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to study whether there are enough precautionary measures in practice to avoid the compromise of the privacy of Americans that are using this application since the users include military service members and also government personnel.

If the safeguards aren’t adequate, then FTC should warn the public about all the risks associated with the use of this application and others of similar nature to it as per Schumer.

FaceApp denies all accusations:

The application has gotten a high rating and is free to use but it also has a premium version that you can purchase for $4 a month, or $20 a year, this provides more filters and also eliminates ads and watermarks.

Although Wireless Lab, that operates the FaceApp, denies all accusations that it stores the data of users in Russia.

“Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia” – the company said while giving a statement to TechCrunch.

They also told TechCrunch that personal data or users are not sold or shared with third parties. Explaining further, they said that the photos uploaded are those selected by users for editing and the majority of these images are deleted within 48 hours of uploading.

The application said it saves photos from a small amount of time to maximize performance and traffic and to make sure that the same picture isn’t uploaded by the user for each edit feature.

If the statement FaceApp gave to TechCrunch is true, then the privacy risks aren’t much different from the other apps that are being used. However, FaceApp should have made it clear for their users immediately and not wait for a controversy.

This controversy teaches users that they shouldn’t become a part of every viral trend, especially one which requires giving access to your data to an app that they haven’t even heard of before.

 


Also See: Facebook To Pay $5bn As A Fine For Cambridge Analytica Privacy Violations


 

Have you tried the application yet? How do you view the recent accusations? Share with us in the comments section below.

 

 

 

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