July 18 (UPI) -- Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called on the FBI to investigate the Russia-based company behind a photo editing smartphone application over potential security and privacy risks.
The Democratic senator for New York said in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons on Wednesday that he is concerned over how the FaceApp mobile software program by Russia-based Wireless Lab uses the personal data of U.S. citizens and whether it will send that information to third parties including foreign governments.
"It would be deeply troubling if the sensitive personal information of U.S. citizens was provided to a hostile foreign power actively engaged in cuber hostilities against the United States," Schumer said, referring to Russia.
The application, among other editing functions, uses artificial intelligence to age one's appearance in photographs, and Schumer said that photos taken with the application can be reused or republished without the user's consent. He also said it is and unclear how long FaceApp keeps the data it has been shared.
Wireless Lab's photo-editing app also poses national security risks as it may provide its users' information to foreign governments, specifically Moscow.
"As FBI Director Wray himself pointed out earlier this year, Russia remains a significant counterintelligence threat," he said in the letter.
Russia has been famously accused of meddling in the United State's 2016 presidential elections.
Schumer also called on the FTC to consider whether there are appropriate safeguards in place to protect the personal data of U.S. citizens, including government personnel and members of the military, and inform them of the risks associated with the application if not.
"In the age of facial recognition technology as both a surveillance and security use, it is essential that users have the information they need to ensure their personal and biometric data remains secure, including from hostile foreign nations," he said.
FaceApp, which first when viral in 2017 and says to have over 80 million downloads, has taken off again in recent days, sparking privacy concerns.
Wireless Lab countered the criticisms, saying, "we don't sell or share any user data with any third parties."
In a statement to Tech Crunch, the company said it only uses the photo uploaded to the program and "user data is not transferred to Russia," despite it being the location of its research and development division.
However, Schumer is asking the FBI to investigate the company to see if data is ending up in Russia's hands and if so, take immediate action to "mitigate the risk presented by the aggregation of this data."