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FBI admits FaceApp is a ‘potential counterintelligence threat’


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The FBI has admitted FaceApp is ‘potential counterintelligence threat’ while issuing a stark warning about any app developed in Russia. 

Responding to Democrat Chuck Schumer’s query on the popular face-editing photo software, the bureau said Moscow’s ability to access communications directly via internet service providers makes any app built in the country risky.

FaceApp, which launched in 2017, was developed by Wireless Lab, a company based in St. Petersburg. Its chief executive officer, Yaroslav Goncharov, used to be an executive at Yandex, widely known as ‘Russia’s Google.’ 

The FBI said it will now also investigate evidence of Russia using the app to target US elections, The New York Daily News reports.  

Democratic U.S. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, pictured, called on the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct national security reviews

The FBI considers any mobile app developed in Russia to be a ‘potential counterintelligence threat,’ it said on Monday, responding to a query about face-editing photo app FaceApp, left. Democratic U.S. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, right, called on the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct national security reviews

The FBI, in a letter responding to Schumer, said Moscow's ability to access communications directly via internet service providers makes any app built there risky

The FBI, in a letter responding to Schumer, said Moscow’s ability to access communications directly via internet service providers makes any app built there risky

The viral smartphone app saw a surge in popularity this year due to a filter that ages photos of users’ faces.

The free service uses artificial intelligence to edit a picture in your phone gallery and transforms the image into someone double or triple your age. 

It can also change your hair color, allow you to see what you look like with a beard, swap genders and even look younger.

But its terms of service means developers can share user data without consent.

Concerns about its Russian provenance prompted the Democratic National Committee to warn the party’s 2020 presidential candidates against using it. 

It also led to a call in July from Democratic U.S. Senate minority leader Schumer for the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct national security reviews. 

Assistant director Jill Tyson wrote in a letter to Schumer: ‘The FBI considers any mobile application or similar product developed in Russia, such as FaceApp, to be a potential counterintelligence threat, based on the data the product collects, its privacy and terms of use policies, and the legal mechanisms available to the Government of Russia that permit access to data within Russia’s borders.’

The letter confirmed: ‘If the FBI assesses that elected officials, candidates, political campaigns, or political parties are targets of foreign influence operations involving FaceApp, the FBI would coordinate notifications, investigate, and engage the Foreign Influence Task Force, as appropriate.’ 

WHAT IS FACEAPP?

FaceApp is a photo-morphing app that uses what it calls artificial intelligence and neural face transformations to make alterations to faces.

The app can use photos from your library or you can snap a photo within the app.

The free service uses artificial intelligence to edit a picture in your phone gallery and transforms the image into someone double or triple your age.

It can also change your hair color, allow you to see what you look like with a beard and even look younger.

There is no evidence that FaceApp provides user data to the Russian government. 

And the company has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties, adding that user data is never transferred to Russia and most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours of submission. 

But the FBI, in a letter responding to Schumer, said Moscow’s ability to access communications directly via internet service providers makes any app built there risky. 

Tyson adds: ‘Russia’s intelligence services maintain robust cyber exploitation capabilities’ and can ‘obtain telephonic and online communications via direct connection to internet service providers…without making a request.’ 

Schumer said: ‘The FBI has to see what Russia might be doing with this information. We should be worried about Russia’s tentacles getting deeper into American elections. We can never shrug our shoulders at national security.’ 

He added: ‘In light of the FBI’s warning, I strongly urge all Americans to consider deleting apps like FaceApp immediately and to proceed with extreme caution when downloading apps developed in foreign countries that are known adversaries.

‘The personal data it collects from a user’s device could end up in the hands of Russian Intelligence Services. It’s simply not worth the risk.’

DailyMail.com have contacted FaceApp for comment.  

The viral smartphone app saw a surge in popularity this year due to a filter that ages photos of users' faces. Kylie Jenner is pictured

The free service uses artificial intelligence to edit a picture in your phone gallery and transforms the image into someone double or triple your age. Kate Middleton is pictured

The viral smartphone app saw a surge in popularity this year due to a filter that ages photos of users’ faces. The free service uses artificial intelligence to edit a picture in your phone gallery and transforms the image into someone double or triple your age. Kylie Jenner and Kate Middleton are pictured via the app 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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