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Russian artificial intelligence app faces scrutiny by US Sen. Schumer

U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York delivers remarks at the Veterans Day Opening Ceremony in Madison Square Park. (Jared King / Navajo Nation Washington Office)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is calling for an investigation over national security and privacy concerns into a popular face-editing app whose developer is based in Russia.

The New York Democrat told the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission in a letter sent on July 17 that FaceApp requires users to provide “full and irrevocable access to their personal pictures and data.”

Schumer said the access could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of U.S. citizens.”

Wireless Lab, the viral smartphone application’s St. Petersburg-based developer, boasts more than 80 million active users on its website.

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Introduced in 2017, there is no evidence that the company, run by former Yandex executive Yaroslav Goncharov, shares user data with third parties, including the Russian government.

The Russian-based company, however, has come under close examination for not clearly disclosing that images on the app get uploaded to the cloud, rather than on a user’s device.

Schumer’s letter stated that there is ambiguity about how the app preserves user data or whether users can ensure their data is deleted after usage.

FaceApp denied sharing or selling user data with third parties in a statement cited by media outlets.

The majority of images get deleted from the company’s servers within 48 hours of the upload date, read the statement.