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FaceApp gets federal attention as Sen. Schumer raises alarm on data use

Its been hard to get away from FaceApp over the last few days, whether its your friends posting weird selfies using the apps aging and other filters, or the brief furore over its apparent (but not actual) circumvention of permissions on iPhones. Now even the Senate is getting in on the fun: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has asked the FBI and the FTC to look into the apps data handling practices.
I write today to express my concerns regarding FaceApp, he writes in a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joseph Simons. Ive excerpted his main concerns below:
In order to operate the application, users must provide the company full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data. According to its privacy policy, users grant FaceApp license to use or publish content shared with the application, including their username or even their real name, without notifying them or providing compensation.
Furthermore, it is unclear how long FaceApp retains a users data or how a user may ensure their data is deleted after usage. These forms of dark patterns, which manifest in opaque disclosures and broader user authorizations, can be misleading to consumers and may even constitute a deceptive trade practices. Thus, I have serious concerns regarding both the protection of the data that is being aggregated as well as whether users are aware of who may have access to it.
In particular, FaceApps location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments.
For the cave-dwellers among you (and among whom I normally would proudly count myself) FaceApp is a selfie app that uses AI-esque techniques to apply various changes to faces, making them look older or younger, adding accessories, and, infamously, changing their race. That didnt go over so well.
Theres been a surge in popularity over the last week, but it was also noticed that the app seemed to be able to access your photos whether you said it could or not. It turns out that this is actually a normal capability of iOS, but it was being deployed here in somewhat of a sneaky manner and not as intended. And arguably it was a mistake on Apples part to let this method of selecting a single photo go against the never preference for photo access that a user had set.
Fortunately the Senators team is not worried about this or even the unfounded (we checked) concerns that FaceApp was secretly sending your data off in the background. It isnt. But it very much does send your data to Russia when you tell it to give you an old face, or a hipster face, or whatever. Because the computers that do the actual photo manipulation are located there these filters are being applied in the cloud, not directly on your phone.
His concerns are over the lack of transparency that user data is being sent out to servers who knows where, to be kept for who knows how long, and sold to who knows whom. Fortunately the obliging FaceApp managed to answer most of these questions before the Senators letter was ever posted.

FaceApp responds to privacy concerns
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