US senator asks FBI, FTC to probe Russia’s FaceApp that alters users’ photos

FaceApp is displayed on an iPhone. The popular app is under fire for privacy concerns. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
Updated 18 July 2019

US senator asks FBI, FTC to probe Russia’s FaceApp that alters users’ photos

  • Chuck Schumer says the mobile software app could pose security risks
  • FaceApp has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties.

WASHINGTON: US Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer called on the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission to conduct a national security and privacy investigation into Russia-based FaceApp, whose mobile software application alters users’ photos, in a letter sent on Wednesday.
FaceApp’s artificial intelligence application for editing photos requires users to provide it with “full and irrevocable access to their personal photos and data,” which could pose “national security and privacy risks for millions of US citizens,” Schumer said in his letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and FTC Chairman Joe Simons.
Schumer posted the letter on his Twitter account.
Users’ photos can be edited to make a user look older or younger or to change their gender, he said.
“FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of US citizens to third parties, including potentially foreign governments, ” Schumer said in the letter.
It is not clear how the artificial intelligence application retains the data of users or how users may ensure the deletion of their data after usage, Schumer said.
Schumer said the photo editing app’s location in Russia raises questions about how FaceApp lets third parties, including foreign governments, have access to the data of American citizens.
In a statement cited by media outlets, FaceApp has denied selling or sharing user data with third parties.
“99% of users don’t log in; therefore, we don’t have access to any data that could identify a person,” the company said in a statement cited by TechCrunch, adding that most images are deleted from its servers within 48 hours of the upload date.
While the company’s research and development team is located in Russia, the user data is not transferred to Russia, according to the statement.
FaceApp’s website says it has over 80 million active users. FaceApp’s website promotes the app by saying: “Transform your face using Artificial Intelligence with just one tap,” showing photos with changes in users’ appearances.


Russia to send ‘Fedor’ its first humanoid robot into space

Updated 22 August 2019

Russia to send ‘Fedor’ its first humanoid robot into space

  • Fedor was to blast off in a Soyuz rocket at 6:38 am Moscow time (0338 GMT) from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome
  • Fedor is not the first robot to go into space

MOSCOW: Russia was set to launch on Thursday an unmanned rocket carrying a life-size humanoid robot that will spend 10 days learning to assist astronauts on the International Space Station.
Named Fedor, for Final Experimental Demonstration Object Research with identification number Skybot F850, the robot is the first ever sent up by Russia.
Fedor was to blast off in a Soyuz rocket at 6:38 am Moscow time from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, dock with the space station on Saturday and stay till September 7.
The Soyuz spacecraft is normally manned on such trips, but on Thursday no humans will be traveling in order to test a new emergency rescue system.
Instead of cosmonauts, Fedor will sit in a specially adapted pilot’s seat.

The silvery anthropomorphic robot stands one meter 80 centimeters tall (5 foot 11 inches) and weighs 160 kilograms (353 lbs).
Fedor has Instagram and Twitter accounts that describe it as learning new skills such as opening a bottle of water. In the station, it will trial those manual skills in very low gravity.
“That’s connecting and disconnecting electric cables, using standard items from a screwdriver and a spanner to a fire extinguisher,” the Russian space agency’s director for prospective programs and science, Alexander Bloshenko, said in televised comments.
Fedor copies human movements, a key skill that allows it to remotely help astronauts or even people on Earth carry out tasks while they are strapped into an exoskeleton.
Such robots will eventually carry out dangerous operations such as space walks, Bloshenko told RIA Novosti state news agency.
On the website of one of the state backers of the project, the Foundation of Advanced Research Projects, Fedor is described as potentially useful on Earth for working in high radiation environments, de-mining and tricky rescue missions.
On board, the robot will perform tasks supervised by Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, who joined the ISS last month, and will wear an exoskeleton in a series of experiments scheduled for later this month.

Robonaut 2, Kirobo
Space agency chief Dmitry Rogozin showed pictures of the robot to President Vladimir Putin this month, saying it will be “an assistant to the crew.”
“In the future we plan that this machine will also help us conquer deep space,” he added.
Fedor is not the first robot to go into space.
In 2011, NASA sent up Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot developed with General Motors and a similar aim of working in high-risk environments.
It was flown back to Earth in 2018 after experiencing technical problems.
In 2013, Japan sent up a small robot called Kirobo along with the ISS’s first Japanese space commander. Developed with Toyota, it was able to hold conversations — albeit only in Japanese.