The Democratic National Committee warned 2020 presidential candidates Wednesday not to use the viral FaceApp because it was created by “Russians.”
FaceApp, which was released in 2017, went viral this week as users posted AI-generated images of they would look like when they are older. But the DNC is worried that the app could pose privacy risks because it was built by a Russian company.
"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 security chief Bob Lord told presidential candidates in a security alert, according to CNN.
Lord said the DNC had "significant concerns about the app (as do other security experts) having access to your photos, or even simply uploading a selfie."
"It's not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks," he wrote.
“If you or any of your staff have already used the app, we recommend that they delete the app immediately,” he wrote.
The makers of the app told TechCrunch, "Even though the core R&D team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia."
The company does not have known ties to the Russian government and denies sharing or selling data with third parties.
"Most images are deleted from our servers within 48 hours from the upload date," the makers told the outlet.
Chuck Schumer calls for FaceApp probe:
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer called on the FBI and Federal Trade Commission to investigate the app.
"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 foreign governments," Schumer wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC chief Joseph Simons Wednesday.
"I ask that the FBI assess whether the personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hand of the Russian government, or entities with ties to the Russian government," he wrote. "I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as whether users are aware of who may have access to it."
Critics say Dems should be worried about Silicon Valley instead:
Critics of the Democrats’ FaceApp hysteria said that if the party was worried about privacy and data they should look no further than Silicon Valley.
“Schumer’s call to the FBI might be misguided. Many apps give user information to third-parties in invasive ways, and FaceApp probably isn’t the most nefarious company involved in that kind of activity. But he does have a point with the FTC request. The agency should start looking into expansive and shady terms of service agreements to see what kind of deceptive trade practices are those policies are enabling. They could start with Silicon Valley,” Jennings Brown wrote at Gizmodo.
“The fact remains we have no idea how FaceApp is using this data, just like we don't know how lots of other apps are using our data. It should all be concerning, but FaceApp is not uniquely concerning,” wrote Motherboard’s Caroline Haskins. “There’s a legitimate discussion that we should have about how much data we hand over the private entities for the sake of mild entertainment. It’s useless to cloud that discussion with the latest American iteration of a Red Scare.”