The growing popularity of FaceApp, a photo filter app that delights smartphone users with its ability to transform the features of any face, like tacking on years of wrinkles, has prompted Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer to call for a federal investigation into the Russia-based company over what he says are potential national security and privacy risks to millions of Americans, NPR reported.
“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 said in a letter to the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission.
“I ask that the FTC consider whether there are adequate safeguards in place to prevent the privacy of Americans using this application, including government personnel and military service members, from being compromised,” the senator wrote.
Even as privacy advocates raised security concerns, FaceApp’s mug-morphing powers lured celebrities — or anyone who had their picture saved to their phone — such as Drake and the Jonas Brothers to try on graying hair and wrinkles. By Wednesday, FaceApp had topped Apple’s and Google’s app download charts.
Schumer’s appeal echoed concerns expressed earlier in the day from the Democratic National Committee, over fears that its artificial intelligence technology could expose vulnerable facial recognition data to a country that launched a hacking campaign against the party during the 2016 election.
The DNC has since expanded its cybersecurity efforts, including bringing on chief security officer Bob Lord.
In an email sent to 2020 presidential campaign staff Wednesday, Lord urged “people in the Democratic ecosystem” against using an app that could have access to its users’ photos, NPR adds.
“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,” Lord said in a notice first reported by CNN. “If you or any of your staff have already used the app, we recommend that they delete the app immediately.”