Chuck Schumer urges FBI to investigate "troubling" FaceApp

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Millions of users have been drawn to FaceApp, a smartphone app that can instantly transform a photo of your current face into your younger and older selves. But the Senate's top Democrat is imploring federal agencies, including the FBI, to look into the potential national security and privacy risks the Russian-based phone app poses to the United States.

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested that the Russian-developed app could be the latest wave of Russia's counterintelligence campaign against the U.S. The nation's top intelligence officials previously confirmed Russia would continue to seek to sow dissension after its 2016 election meddling efforts.

BIG: Share if you used #FaceApp:

The @FBI & @FTC must look into the national security & privacy risks now

Because millions of Americans have used it

It’s owned by a Russia-based company

And users are required to provide full, irrevocable access to their personal photos & data pic.twitter.com/cejLLwBQcr

— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 18, 2019

"As FBI Director Wray himself pointed out earlier this year, Russia remains a significant counterintelligence threat. 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," Schumer wrote.

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By using the app, users are required to provide full access to their personal photos and data on their phone. According to the app's privacy policy, users seemingly grant FaceApp license to use or publish any content shared with the application without notifying them or providing compensation. It's also not clear how long the application retains a given users's data or when, if at all, it's deleted from their servers.

Schumer contends that FaceApp's policy can be "misleading" to consumers and "may even constitute a deceptive trade practice." The Democrat now wants the FBI to assess whether the personal data of FaceApp users is being used by the Russian government or entities with ties to the Kremlin for potential nefarious activities.

He also wants the FTC to provide greater awareness of potential risks associated with the use of the application as more Americans download and share photos from app, including those with sensitive data like members of the government and military personnel overseas.

"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 nations," Schumer wrote.

The Democrat's concern comes after DNC officials warned 2020 presidential campaigns not to use the app, for fear of similar security and privacy risks.

First published on July 18, 2019 / 8:21 AM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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