The political establishment in the United States has reacted with alarm to the growing popularity of a photo manipulation app called FaceApp.

US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has called for a national security and privacy investigation into FaceApp, in a letter sent on Wednesday to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joe Simons.

His concern centres around the fact that the face-editing photo app was developed in Russia, and that it requires “full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data.”

FaceApp security

This has caused concern with US officials, and Senator Schumer has according to Reuters said that this could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of US citizens.”

And it is not just the Senator who is concerned.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) was famously hacked during the Presidential elections in 2016. The US government at the time accused the Russian government of involvement in the hack.

The DNC has now reportedly sent out an alert to the party’s 2020 presidential candidates on Wednesday warning them against using the app, highlighting its Russian provenance.

Indeed, CNN reported that the DNC alert came from Bob Lord, the DNC’s chief security officer, who urged recipients to delete the app immediately.

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

Celebrity use

FaceApp was released in 2017, but recently has gone viral after celebrities and other public personalities all around the world began sharing photos of themselves edited through the app.

The app itself is said to use artificial intelligence to edit the photos.

FaceApp itself has denied that it poses a risk to anyone, and told other media outlets that it does not transfer any data to Russia.

“99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person,” said the firm in a statement cited by TechCrunch. It also said that that most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours of the upload date.

But iOS users of the app have reported that the app appears to override settings if a user had denied access to their camera roll. Even when that option is selected, people have reportedly said they could still select and upload a photo.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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