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Selfie Software: FBI calls FaceApp a security risk


Millions of people have artificially rejuvenated or aged their faces through the FaceApp service. US politician Chuck Schumer wrote therefore months ago worried to the FBI. Now came the answer.

No photo app was in the headlines like FaceApp this summer. The originally published in 2017 smartphone software manipulates portrait photos so that faces look either younger or older - in a very impressive way.

Millions of people, including celebrities such as author Charlotte Roche and Green politician Cem Özdemir, used the app to show on social media what they might look like in the future.

But there was also great skepticism, which was partly due to spongy conditions of use of the app. In addition, there were fundamental concerns, above all from the USA, because the app is operated from Russia.

Chuck Schumer, faction leader of the Democrats in the US Senate, called on the FBI against this background to an investigation of the app. The fact that the operator company is based in Russia raises the question of whether data from US citizens would be passed on to third parties or possibly to foreign governments, Schumer wrote to the US Federal Police. "It would be deeply disturbing if the sensitive personal information of US citizens were made available to a hostile foreign power that is actively involved in cyberattacks against the United States."

Now came the answer

A good four months later, the hype surrounding FaceApp has diminished but has not disappeared - and the FBI has answered Schumer.

A warning to share with your family & friends:

#FaceApp, I asked the FBI if the app was safe.

Well, the FBI just responded.

FaceApp is a potential counterintelligence threat.

- Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) December 2, 2019

However, the letter from the Federal Police put into the internet by Schumer is not all that illuminating - it is too basic for that. So the FBI writes that it considers all "mobile applications developed in Russia or similar products" as potential spy tools, so also FaceApp.

This assessment is based on the data collected by the app, its terms of use, and the legal capacity of the Russian government to gain access to data within Russia's borders.

To the terms of use of FaceApp it is said by the FBI at the outset that this similar to the conditions other social media providers. However, it is particularly important that users submit a photo to FaceApp for the purpose of manipulation.

No evidence of espionage

Asking the question where FaceApp stores its data, the FBI quotes only information from the app operator. Accordingly, the images are loaded on cloud servers in the USA, Singapore, Ireland and Australia. Most pictures are - if you believe the FaceApp operators - within 48 hours after the upload deleted.

In conclusion, the FBI letter to Schumer states that the Federal Police would take care of the issue if it came to the conclusion that political actors in the USA are the target of a campaign of foreign influence in which FaceApp also plays a role. If necessary, the so-called Foreign Influence Task Force (FITF) would then be used.

Evidence that FaceApp may have been used for spying purposes, or that data collected by the app might actually have landed in Russia, can not be found in the letter. FaceApp has always emphasized in the past that it does not sell or share information with third parties.

Source: spiegel

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