FBI Says Russian Mobile Apps A 'potential Counterintelligence Threat'

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Russian apps have 'potential counterintelligence threat' said FBI assistant director Jill Tyloe in a letter to Democratic US minority leader Chuck Schumer.

Written By Tanima Ray | Mumbai | Updated On:

In a response to a US lawmaker's query about Russian origin face-editing photo app FaceApp, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on December 2 that any app from Russia has a "potential counterintelligence threat". The app went viral in 2019 due to a filter that ages photos of users’ faces. The Democratic National Committee warned the party’s 2020 presidential candidates against using it after the FBI statement. Democratic US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer for the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission was also asked to conduct national security reviews. There is no strong evidence against the app that proves that it leaks data to the Russian Government. Yet Moscow’s ability to access communications directly via internet service providers makes any app built there risky, FBI wrote in a letter to Schumer on a November 25. FBI assistant director Jill Tyson said that the agency is investigating FaceApp over its ties to Russia. Concerns raised over FaceApp as its terms of service and privacy policy allowed for the app's developers to get permanent rights to people's images, as well as provide the data to advertisers. 

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"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," Tyson wrote in the letter.

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Faceapp dismisses the accusations

The app launched back in 2017 and gradually became popular for its filters within 2 years. Wireless Lab, a company based in St Petersburg developed the photo editing app. The app's chief executive officer, Yaroslav Goncharov, used to be an executive at Yandex, widely known as “Russia’s Google”. Following the accusations, the company has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties. In a statement, it said that user data is never transferred to Russia and most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours of submission.

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