Concerns about Popular Russian-owned FaceApp

Concerns about Popular Russian-owned FaceApp Concerns about Popular Russian-owned FaceApp

July 18, 20192 min read

FaceApp, a Russian-owned viral editing app that utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to show users how they would look older, younger, or as a different gender, has prompted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Shumer to request an investigation by the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission into the popular app’s potential national security and privacy risks.

Shumer’s main concerns are whether personal data is being collected by the Russian government and if adequate safeguards are in place to fend off manipulation of data. Reported to have 80 million active users, FaceApp’s terms of service require "full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data," Shumer pointed out.

Benjamin Mitchell, an assistant professor of Computer Science at Villanova University, says that while FaceApp presents heightened concerns, most apps open users up to similar vulnerabilities.

“I think most of the concerns people have around this app aren't actually at all unique to the app itself. While there are always concerns with potentially hostile parties gathering information about US citizens, in this case it's mostly stuff that's already out there,” Mitchell said. “Anyone using this app probably has photos of themselves on the internet already, and it doesn't sound like the app is actually sending more than images.”

“The use of cloud resources to do processing is an unfortunate consequence of modern AI technology,” he added. “Nearly all modern AI image processing of this sort is not practical on the hardware in a phone. So, on some level users should be concerned, but they should probably be at least as concerned with Facebook, Instagram, etc.”

Those considering using FaceApp and other apps using AI should weigh their potential consequences, Mitchell counseled.

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