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Schumer calls on FBI, FTC to investigate FaceApp
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is asking the FBI and Federal Trade Commission to investigate FaceApp, a viral photo-aging tool that is sparking privacy concerns.
Schumer sent a letter on Wednesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joseph Simons saying he was concerned that the app, which is headquartered in Russia, "could pose national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens."
"In the age of facial recognition technology as both a surveillance and security use, it is essential that users have the information they need to ensure their personal and biometric data remains secure, including from hostile foreign governments," Schumer wrote.
Schumer is asking the FTC to determine if there are "adequate safeguards" in place to prevent Americans' privacy from being compromised and, if not, to publicly disclose that.
He separately wants the FBI to find out if data being uploaded to FaceApp by Americans is "finding its way into the hands" of Russia's government or companies with ties to the 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," he wrote.
The policy states, "FaceApp cannot ensure the security of any information you transmit to FaceApp or guarantee that information on the Service may not be accessed, disclosed, altered, or destroyed."
The policy also allows FaceApp to share user content with businesses affiliated in the same group of companies.
Schumer argued that language means that a username or real name could be shared without consent or that photos taken with the applications "could be used publicly or privately in the future without the user's consent."
"Opaque disclosures and broader user authorizations can be misleading to consumers and may even constitute a deceptive trade practice. Thus, I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as wether users are aware of who may have access to it," Schumer added.
Schumer's letter comes as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) is urging 2020 candidates not to use FaceApp over fear of security concerns based on the app's Russian roots.
"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," DNC chief security officer Bob Lord wrote in an alert to the campaigns.
FaceApp CEO Yaroslav Goncharov told The Guardian that data is not transferred to Russia but instead stored on U.S.-controlled cloud computing services provided by Amazon and Google.
He said FaceApp does not sell or share any user data with any third parties.